Monday, 5 October 2015

A Wild Week

Last week was a great week for watching the wildlife in and around the garden at the glorified shed.

It all got off to a great start on Monday evening when I spotted movement in the apple tree. Nothing unusual about that, you may think, but there was something different in the type of movement that I was seeing, so I decided to take a closer look. And what did I see? A female sparrowhawk commandeering a branch of said tree as a plucking post. I managed to get quite a good view and was even treated to a low level fly past when I was able to view the bird in all its glory. And so my week of wildlife wonders began.
And of course I've been seeing the usual herons,
egrets, lapwings, moorhens...

On Tuesday the sun was shining brightly and I paused to enjoy a morning coffee in the garden. Then what should come swimming down the river? A seal. Now I’d seen seals in the river before, but had previously only enjoyed brief glimpses, but this latest visitor proceeded to put on quite a show. It swam up and down for some time, poking out its head or gently arcing back into the water. At times I could see it swimming just below the surface – it was a real treat! I managed to spot the seal (or maybe a different one, who knows?) a couple more times during the week, and am eagerly keeping my eyes peeled for further sightings.

On Thursday I spotted a beautiful, blue dragonfly desperately trying to escape from a spider’s web. I managed to rescue it and watch it slowly regain its strength before disappearing – that was my good deed for the day!

Finally on Saturday morning, whilst the rest of the family were still in bed, I was enjoying an early morning coffee when I heard I strange tapping noise. I glanced out of the window and was treated to a view of a great spotted woodpecker diligently hammering the wooden bee attractor that hangs on the apple tree. It then proceeded to remove the internal bamboo tubes one by one and fling them on the ground, before sticking its head in the resulting space to have a good root around. Finally it flew away leaving a pile of sticks on the ground, which would have caused a great deal of puzzlement had I not seen what had actually happened.

Well, that was last week, what wildlife treats will this one have in store?

STOP PRESS! We have a usable bathroom although there is still cosmetic work to be done before I bore you with a photo of our creation!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Have You Herd?

Our newest ‘neighbours’ at the glorified shed are a herd of cows that have been moved onto land across the river directly opposite us. We’d been seeing the cows for some time from a slightly further distance, but their new grazing station is that much closer.

We often hear their gentle mooing and watch with a modicum of trepidation when they get too close to the water’s edge, but by and large their presence does add to the whole ‘country appeal’ of our rural home.

However, we know the story of the wayward cow, and are on standby should the tale repeat itself. Many years ago, a somewhat brave (or possibly clumsy or stupid) individual made its way across the river and arrived in what is now our garden. Its distressed moos were heard in the early hours of the morning, alerting people to its presence. It was finally escorted from the premises by a bemused policeman and a slightly red-faced farmer.

One morning recently, we woke to the sound of louder mooing that sounded much closer than usual and for one moment thought that history was repeating itself. It was a false alarm, however.

More on the nature front, I’ve once again spotted a seal in the river. As I sat outside enjoying an early morning coffee, a lone seal swam past. At first I was only able to see its head above water, but then it decided to make a dive for it, treating me to a view of its whole body as it arced over into the water. It was very obliging of if to perform right in front of me, next time perhaps it could be even more obliging and make an appearance when I actually have a camera to hand!
Then just yesterday my son was delighted to spot a weasel in the garden – so now we’re all keeping our eyes peeled for a glimpse of one too!

There’s no doubt about it, the wonderful view, proximity to nature and interesting wildlife compensate greatly for the slow renovation of the glorified shed!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Year On

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living at the glorified shed for a whole year now. How time flies – and how ‘normal’ this glamping existence has become!

Visitors are sometimes surprised that we appear to have made relatively little progress on the surface of things, with the renovation process seeming achingly slow. But there are a number of reasons for this gradual approach.

Firstly we were starting with a near blank canvass – a utilitarian shell, formerly a workshop, designed without any creature comforts, or even insulated walls! We really had to start from scratch, redoing electrics, laying new drainage, insulating and plasterboarding walls – the list goes on!

Secondly, where possible we are doing a large amount of the work ourselves to ease the budget (Budget? What budget? See below). Our time is obviously limited as it also has to be spread around work commitments – my husband’s design business, for which I also do copywriting; family commitments – a son still at school, a daughter bringing up a young son alone, another older daughter with slight learning difficulties and two elderly mothers for whom we are the sole carers; and just having a life!

Lastly, limited funds. We’re not of the ‘Grand Designs’ variety of homebuilders, with a budget of many thousands and a crack team of builders to hand. We’re slowly buying materials and paying necessary workmen (basically plumber, electrician and carpenter for specialised jobs) as we earn the pennies.

At least the view takes care of itself!
All that said, we have come quite some way since we first arrived at the ‘shed’ last September, making it at least liveable, however ramshackle some of the arrangements may seem.

As I write, the next major stage of electrical upgrade is taking place and the bathroom is nearing completion, with the ceiling going up and the plumber booked for the big installation of the suite (technically not a suite, as we’ve chosen individual pieces that work well together). What luxury it will be to step into a fully fitted bathroom of our own, as opposed to turning up at my mother-in-law’s with a towel!

All the months of running wires and pipes, working on walls and planning and replanning designs, we’ll have a finished room at last. The next big push is bringing the large, open-plan living area up to scratch with cosy insulation and a wood-burning stove.

Who knows, next year we may even get the kitchen area fitted out and some bedroom walls put up!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Progress and Paint

This past week has seen a flurry of activity at the ‘glorified shed’ accompanied by a cloud of plaster dust and the reassuring smell of new paint.

The bathroom walls have been sanded, coating much of the ‘shed’ with a fine, telltale dust that has required diligent removal, followed by application of the first layer of paint in the form of a white undercoat. This stage has been incredibly fulfilling and reassuring, as suddenly the place is starting to feel like a proper home, not just an impromptu camp. Next on the agenda – a splash of colour!

It will even be a luxury to have a
place to hang a towel.
Also big news is the fitting of our new front door – a good, solid, wood affair, with a small leaded glass section and antique black fittings. We now no longer have to worry that the former, plywood, 1960s version complete with sign stating ‘Entrance’ will collapse when opened. Sometimes I’m tempted to walk in and out of the door purely for the novelty factor.

We’re now entering a more fun stage of the process – buying the bathroom suite and fittings! We’re going for all things curvy – a curved shower unit, a curved corner bath, a bit of curved shelving – well, you get the picture.

Fingers crossed that I’ll soon be able to introduce you to our long-awaited bathroom, which will only leave all the other rooms requiring building/renovation! In the meantime, let glamping resume.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Change Is As Good As A Rest!

A couple of weeks ago we packed our bags, loaded up the car, dusted down the road map (I still love maps and loathe Satnavs) and headed for the hills – or to be more specific the Yorkshire Moors.

It was good to take a break from the slow process of renovating the glorified shed and to stay somewhere that had bedroom walls, a decent bathroom and a proper kitchen, even though the accommodation was a (quite grand) static caravan.

At the shed, we’re surrounded by countryside, wildlife, open views and a quiet rural existence. So did we head for a vibrant city location? Or did we choose an exotic beach destination? Or maybe even an all-action holiday complex? Of course we didn’t. We chose a caravan park surrounded by countryside, wildlife (well supposedly, but I saw less than at home), open views and a quiet rural existence (apart from the nearby railway track). It seems that we love our environment so much, that even on holiday we swap it for something very similar, just in a slightly different place.

Of course, we ventured into the City of York, making use of the excellent, great value park and ride system and visited an old favourite place of ours – Whitby. We even had a theme park day, but also enjoyed peaceful countryside picnics and visited a couple of Yorkshire’s abbey ruins. You’ll be able to read more about those visits at over the coming weeks.

But now we’re back, and it’s time to turn our thoughts back to the task in hand. Our progress has been a little hampered by an injury sustained by hubby whilst away (more of that to come on Shoppers’ Joy too) but we are making fresh plans, which we hope will soon bear fruit.

In the meantime, it’s back to ‘shed’ living surrounded by countryside, wildlife, open views and a quiet rural existence... Have we ever been away?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Going Batty

OK, we’ll get the obvious comments out of the way for a start: “What do you mean going?” “We thought you were already!”

I’m not actually talking about my mental state (although some think I’m mad when I say I can’t stand Prosecco or have no desire to visit America) but wildlife.
I’ve often commented on the varied wildlife that I can watch from the comfort of my little riverside haven and the list seems to be growing. I continue to watch herons, cormorants, egrets, woodpeckers, goldfinches and all manner of birds on the riverbank and in the garden, but recently I’ve been seeing much more.

With the onset of warmer evenings, I’ve taken to sitting out in the garden enjoying the view, armed with a glass of wine (not Prosecco) or gin and tonic, enjoying the tranquillity of it all. It was on one such evening that I had an extra close-up view of the bats. Now I’ve always loved bats (yes, I just keep getting stranger) and have seen a few flitting by in the past, but on this occasion they were circling so low for insects, that they were only about a foot or two above my head! This didn’t faze me (I don’t believe in the old wives' tale about bats in the hair) but fascinated me. To have such a ringside seat was amazing!

But bats aren’t the only creatures that I’m watching on a summer evening. I’ve also discovered water voles! Strange splashing noises from the river alerted me to take a closer look, revealing a dark shape swimming in the water. This shape then made for the riverbank and climbed ashore – a water vole, Ratty himself!
Then to add to the list, I was sitting in the garden reading one afternoon, when I noticed something making its way rapidly through the grass heading towards me. As I looked closer I realised that it was a newt that then dashed past me into some nearby shade. Whether it came from the river or a nearby pond I’m unsure, but it certainly took me by surprise.

I’m always on the lookout for the arrival of another seal, having seen one splashing in the river directly in front of the glorified shed last summer. But I’m still waiting...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

I’m Only Tweeting With The Birds!

If you’re someone who has been following me on Twitter, I’d like to let you know I’m currently closing my account for reasons that you can read at

It’s been almost a week since I posted my last tweet, and although I will miss chats with some of the lovely people on Twitter, I’m enjoying not to feel the need to rush on to the site to keep up. I’m taking the extra time to  enjoy the river, the garden and the tweeting of the birds!

I hope to still keep in touch via my Blogs and Google Plus page here

Until then, enjoy the beautiful weather everyone!