Friday, September 30, 2005

Quiet lanes

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Build a pot

Kate Vogler is a well known Norfolk ceramacist. Her work is sold at pretigious galleries such as The Grapevine in Norwich, Big Blue Sky at Wells and The Old Barn Studios at Kettlestone.

She is also a lovely person and can impart to you some of the mysteries of clay.

The promise is a two hour lesson in handbuilt pottery. No guarantees that you will build something as beautiful as her pots in these pictures but you will learn how and have great fun trying! And you may uncover some hidden talents.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Looking down toward Guestwick from Wood Dalling

The Thurning Road

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


At this time of year they are just magical - especially early in the morning with the sun low and heavy with dew.
These were all taken this morning. Of course, the price to pay for wandering the countryside in all that dew is sopping wet jeans - about six inches up from the hem. Yuk.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just don't give 'em milk!

Sometimes the wildlife needs a helping hand.

After the first cold night a couple of mornings ago I found a small hedgehog lying in the sun in the garden. Looking all wrong.

In a state of collapse, very weak and shaking, it was still perky enough to wolf down a couple of peanuts when offered. Already blow flies were starting to pay it attention so the first course of action seemed to be to get it away from them.

Once safely in the shed in a paper-lined box with a plate of cat food to keep it entertained, the advice of the Hedgehog Society was sought. Over the phone I learnt that the little mite was very cold (hence the shaking) and had found its way into the sun to try and warm up. So the shed was a bad move! Under instruction, it was brought indoors to the warm kitchen. A hot water bottle was propped under the box and it crawled onto the warm spot. After a good feed of Turkey Whiskas in jelly it tucked its nose under and slept like a log on the hotwater bottle for the afternoon until I could take it over to the Hedgehog Society lady on the other side of Aylsham. The picture on the right is it just starting to doze. I know, but really - ahhh.

Sandra gave it a shot of antibiotics and identified it as a juvenile female. At this time of year they need to be at least 1 1/2 pounds to survive the winter but she was very young (like horses, you can tell by the teeth!) and only 12 ounces. Left to her own devices she would certainly have died.

So she is going to spend the winter in the expert hands of the Hedgehog Lady (with a variety of other hedgehog waifs and strays) and then come back to live in our garden (cue Born Free music) in the spring.

A happy ending.

So, I thought I'd share 9 things I've learnt about hedgehogs...

1. Never give them milk. Despite the fact that they will cheerfully tuck in, the traditional plate of bread and milk left out for them can kill hedgehogs. They can't digest cows milk and it gives them diarrhoea which can fatally dehydrate them.

2. Hedgehogs are in trouble. Numbers have declined by 20% since 2001. Amongst other factors, tidier decked gardens are responsible. Luckily, no one can accuse Blues Skies HQ of having a too tidy garden! In fact hedgehogs need overgrown hedgerows and woodland edges to nest and rough pasture to find food, so the villages and countryside around here represent a pretty good environment (coupled with the relatively low levels of traffic).

3. You will be very popular in the hedgehog world if you leave out a small plate of cat or dog food or (unsalted) peanuts at night. And give them safe access to clean water.

4. If you see a hedgehog in daylight it has got a problem so you should put it in a box and phone the Hedgehog Society (see link right or click here).

5. Fleas. A healthy hedgehog will have some fleas. But don't panic. Hedgehog fleas are quite different to cat, dog or human fleas. If they get onto anything other than a hedgehog they will find it too warm and jump off and wait for the next passing spike. Or expire - whichever happens soonest. I didn't see any fleas around my one until the Hedgehog Lady gave her a small puff of flea powder. Then the blighters jumped off - bizarrely, by this stage in my rapid training I recognised them as a good sign and was pleased to see them! But sneakily delighted that they had stayed put whilst the hedgehog was in my kitchen.

6. Fly eggs. Can be removed by warming with a hair dryer.

7. Don't use slug pellets in your garden - it will kill them! Hedgehogs eat the dying slugs and get poisoned. One of the best ways to reduce slugs is encourage a hedgehog to treat your garden as home - they will hoover them up. Otherwise you can use beer traps and half grapefruits to catch slugs and snails.

8. Before you light a bonfire this autumn, think that the heap, if left out overnight may have become a sleeping place for a hedgehog. Best way to avaoid a horrible tragdey is to move it to a different spot before you light it.

9. Make a hedgehog nest. I've done this before by leaving a good dense heap of sticks and twigs in a quiet area of the garden and I have to confess, not really expecting it to work. But next spring, to my amazement, found a slumbering hedgehog under it. Result!

Sunday, September 18, 2005


One of the many wonderful things about living in these parts is that it is very easy to shop and hardly ever see the inside of a dreaded supermarket. A lot of our goods and services can be easily found locally, keeping the food miles down and the money within the local economy.

Here at Blue Skies HQ, we haven't bought a single bit of supermarket meat for about three years.

One of our local butchers is Brian Brown of Browns the butchers in Reepham. He's a lovely chap, sells very good meat and furthermore has very generously donated a joint of his excellent gammon for the auction of promises.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Turkey plus 1

And just to prove it's really Norfolk - some friends met whilst cycling the highways and byways....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Messing about on boats - the picture

As an update to the promise of a gentle 2-3 hour sail (click to see entry for 30th August for more details) , this is a picture of the beautiful wooden boat in which you will be able to relax as you are steered by your captain. Just perfect!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Owls and deer

Another early morning cycle along the lanes and a couple of missed opportunities. I was heading for the river and couldn't grab my camera out of my bag quite fast enough to catch a shot of the heron lazily flying out from just below me, as I arrived on the bridge. And on the way home toward breakfast a tawny owl flew immediately overhead onto a vergeside oak tree but as soon as I stopped the bike it vanished into the foliage. Birds seem not to mind whilst you are cycling but feel threatened as soon as you stop.Never the less, I did spend a half an hour watching a couple of deer grazing in the water meadow and the barn owl hunting...

You do need to click on the images to see a bit more detail - sorry. I think today is the day I order that teleconverter!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Indian summer

A really beautiful day at Blakeney and Cley yesterday and people were enjoying the last days of summer beside the briny in all sorts of ways.

Although Norfolk is a vibrant community, with a wide variety of businesses, a significant part of the local economy works because people come here to enjoy the unspoilt coast and countryside - pretty much all year round.

But it's even better when it's all just on your doorstep.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Chateau Guibon 2001

To fill in a little background detail on promise No 1 - six bottles of Chateau Guibon 2001; which is described by the generous donor as a good 'honest' claret.

The wine is bottled at the chateau in the Gironde département of South West France, an area which is home to some of the most famous names in wine. Its proprietor, and also the trader, is M. Andre Lurton. He is an extraordinary man who has been President of the Departmental Federation of Oenological Centres, Director of the National Confederation of Appellations Contrôlées and President and founder of the Association for the Protection and Conservation of Agricultural Land (responsible for carrying out studies to further the conservation of the natural agricultural and viticultural heritage of Bordeaux).

This claret is also purchased by the donor's French club in Paris.

So it has a good provenance and would make an excellent addition to your cellar (or rack).

Saturday, September 03, 2005


It's going to be one of those years that is good for sloes. Always a bonus. A beautiful hedgerow fruit and priceless to those of us who like a warming nip around Christmas. To quote Humphrey Lyttelton.

I'm not saying where these are, you'll just have to find your own. An unkind joke, which obviously I've never done, is to take a novice picking and get them to take a tiny nibble at one of the sloes - they are the most mouth-puckeringly dry thing ever created. But sloe gin transforms them into a truly sublime tasting deep magenta liqueur, best enjoyed in front of a fire in the depths of winter. Sloes traditionally shouldn't be picked until the first frost, so they have a way to go yet. Watch this space, if the birds don't get these first, a promise of a bottle of my much sought after home made sloe gin, ready for Christmas, may possibly turn up on the list in due course.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Major promise update!

Hot news from the North Norfolk Model Engineering Club is that their chairman is very impressed with the blog entry and hopes to be at the tracks on the day the promise is taken.
This has caused a wave of excitement (especially here at Norfolk Skies HQ) and has also inspired the kind donor of the original, and already generous, promise to significantly upgrade! Promise 2 will now include the gift of a stylish enamel club badge and a drivers cap. You can't really drive a steam engine without a grease top hat after all.

I'm reliably informed that hot oily water is not pleasant on one's head, especially if there are signs of wear in the hair dept!