South Stack

A quick 48hour trip to Anglesey last week to deal with some work things ended up being more frustrating than I thought. Sometimes life is like that no matter how carefully you plan but it’s still irritating. Normally heading to Anglesey is a happy thing for me even if it’s for work purposes rather than recreation, a change being as good as a rest. I think life got just so busy in recent weeks I lost the ability to stop and savour the good moments and my head got into a bit of a tangle and I felt quite sad and upset.

Life is short.

It’s something I appreciate more and more with each passing year and see the truth of this much quoted cliché in other’s lives as a flag that you really do have to make the best use of time. Sometimes people use this to justify selfish acts. I prefer to take this to mean how we work, how we act, how we behave to those around us. Not to be frivolous of time or resources and especially not with other’s love or feelings.

But I also think also means to take time to enjoy what we have and appreciate it in the everyday rather than going through life blinkered to that which is around us. Realising I’d temporarily lost sight of that whilst fretting about things that I couldn’t do anything about I decided to “seize the carp!” as I like to pun and went up to one of my favourite places to walk Marley for half an hour or so in the evening before the next meeting I had planned rather than just sit around waiting.

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South Stack is known both for its lighthouse and for its amazing seabird colonies. I’m no birder; I merely stand on the sidelines hoping to absorb new information with every encounter. Although I’ve visited South Stack since my earliest childhood, I’d never actually been inside Ellin’s Tower which the RSPB use as an educational resource and bird-watching hide for visitors. By the time I got there it was closed for the day but instead of heading for the lighthouse carpark and surrounding paths as I do normally I decided to walk along what the map showed as the lower path along the coastline.

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This was a mistake!! I hadn’t appreciated quite how close to the edge of the cliffs it was and for those with a head for heights this is fine as it’s actually quite safe. For someone like me who can make myself feel faint by looking at a photograph taken from a high viewpoint it was a Really Bad Idea. This is a normal coastal walk for most people. For those like me it’s a panicky adrenaline-fuelled torture of an over-active imagination and by the time I’d appreciated this it was better to carry on than turn back!

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Having a bouncy Labrador with a life motto of “act first, think later” on the end of a lead just added to the stress. Dogs are meant to be kept on the lead but I wouldn’t have trusted Marley not to absent-mindedly bounce over the edge in pursuit of a seagull anyway! I kept him very close whilst we were walking… err… crawling here.

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I couldn’t really appreciate the stunning beauty of this path because I was too busy reminding myself to breathe and kidding myself I was walking through a wood a very very long way away from a cliff… I did stop for a sit down for a minute though and took a couple of photos to appreciate later on when I was back on less worrying ground!

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The cliffs by the lighthouse were raucous with the sounds of the Guillemots and Razorbills, Herring Gulls and Black backed Gulls. Once I was back on terrain I felt comfortable with I felt it was a shame I couldn’t have got there earlier and gone inside the hide.

So the next morning although I was heading back home I decided to make another quick trip back specifically to go inside Ellin’s Tower.This was definitely not a mistake. Leaving Marley in the car this time and driving up I joined the tourists and students already gathered there. For dedicated and knowledgeable bird watchers this must be paradise. The RSPB staff were very kind and helpful in showing people like me how to spot different birds and explaining about their breeding habits. The webcam showed some Guillemots in close up getting ready to lay their egg on the cliff edge (“nesting” is a bit of a strong word to use for the haphazard parenting methods they use!) and we smiled as a curious Razorbill hoved into view and photobombed the webcam and unknowingly peered back at us!

This is the picture I took with my little compact camera I carry with me most times. I would have loved a long zoom and my DSLR though – I must remember to take it next time!

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People come to see puffins here too but actually there are not very many unlike on more remote islands mostly in Scotland (but including “Puffin Island” on the other side of Anglesey). The rats that steal their eggs from the burrows they lay in can still access puffin nests here on an island connected to the mainland. There are only a few breeding pairs here. The RSPB man I spoke to said they had spotted 6 puffins so far at South Stack this year – really not very many amongst the thousands of other birds. He’d seen one that morning on the sea and explained how a solitary puffin would hang out near a group of guillemots on the sea. After a bit he quietly said he’d seen it again quite far out and trained the telescope on it for me. This was so exciting as it was the first puffin I have ever seen … even if it was a very long way off and through a lens!

After a few minutes observing I asked an older lady if she would like to see it too rather than me hogging it. She was very excited too and got her husband so he could see too. Then the RSPB man spotted another puffin in a group much closer to us below the cliffs and trained the other telescope for this couple so they could both watch. I grabbed a pair of binoculars and found where he was talking about. I was very happy to have seen these colourful little birds even if they are much more accessible to humans in other areas in Scotland. They are sadly an endangered species and really need help to protect them or we risk losing them altogether along with so many other bird, animals and plants.

I didn’t see any Choughs which are well known visitors here. I was told if I walked along the cliff path I might see some but I politely declined that experience again… Apparently they are quite friendly and if you hang around any length of time you’ll probably see them. I ate my sandwiches but didn’t have enough time to stop any longer. I hope to see them next time I come back.

I approve of the picnic area seating though!

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I was really glad that I’d taken just a little time out of the trip home to come back, to see these birds and to learn a little more about them. I asked when they had arrived and was told just 48 hours earlier. So by seizing the moment I had been able to see something I might have missed later in the year. Instead of adding to the busyness it refreshed me and I felt better for it.

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Marley and I turned around from the tip of Wales and headed off back to the mainland and mountains of Snowdonia and the next stop I’d planned on the way home – Bodnant Gardens…

 

 

 

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Knit 1, Love 1

Sometimes life catches you up … or out. I do a lot of other things I don’t mention online that aren’t to do with my textile “life” and as with anything, you go through times outside of your control that feel like you’re slogging against the odds with no end in sight, that every throw of the dice turns out unlucky. I often remind myself that life is not about the hand of cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them that matters. But rightly or wrongly, lately it felt like I’ve staked everything on chimeras and false hopes and disheartened was beginning to lose sight of things that matter.

Social media has opened many doors for me, both in terms of work as well as leisure and friendships with wonderful people I wouldn’t otherwise have had the good fortune to know. I’ve generally kept things low key in the years I’ve interacted online and escaped the more toxic aspects of it for which I’m grateful. However even in the happy world of textiles I generally inhabit, the political events of this summer meant that an edginess has seeped even into that. I’m not built for conflict and don’t generally engage in things that involve it and yet still was unable to escape the bile rolling up my social media feeds. The pervading air of petulance and anger on all sides indicated just how childish adults can be at times and left me confused, hurt and sick at heart because it doesn’t reflect how the people I know deal with things in the real world.

Social media not only opens doors, sometimes it opens a pandora’s box. Realising this, almost too late, caused much distress in recent weeks – for all its good aspects it’s important to hold onto the fact that neutral things can be used for ill as well as good. After a deal of thinking and with the prospect of family visiting I made the decision to close my online shop for a couple of weeks to give myself a space in which to spend time with loved ones as well as take a look at the creative and admin aspects of the business ready for some new stock and ideas.

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Being able to walk away from some online activity and focussing on the humanity of face to face conversations and eye contact with people who’ve known me since I was a child, simple things like laughter, hugs, board games, writing postcards instead of texts, drawing, reading from paper instead of screens … restored some balance. For me I am happiest outside in nature and several days spent in, on or under saltwater washed away some of the tears.

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As a childless person I sometimes feel inadequate and clumsy around small people. However I am blessed with a large collection of nephews and nieces as well as my goddaughter and these youngsters I love with as fierce a love as though they were my own. I love watching them grow and develop, learning new things, experiencing life and becoming the next generation to take responsibility. Family is central; nowhere is the sacrificial nature of love demonstrated more strongly than in a family. Genetics do not make you all the same and yet you are bound together by love. Love is sometimes an act of will, choosing to be excellent to those you are responsible towards even when you don’t feel like it. And knowing in return your family will always have your back even when they don’t really understand gives security that you can thrive within that nothing else can.

Patience is a virtue they say. It’s not really one of my virtues and having to slow down to accommodate tiny people, whether the footsteps, understanding or physical skills is also good for my soul. Going out for a morning’s kayaking I was ready long before my family, underestimating the time it takes to get children ready to go out. Sweating in my wetsuit and feeling every so slightly impatient, I picked up my knitting and headed off to sit outdoors and wait productively whilst my lively nephew and niece were wrangled and processed into teeny tiny wetsuits by their parents. I must have looked very odd knitting attired thus but then I’m used to being the oddball. Shortly a shadow appeared at my side and peered curiously at my hands.

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Aunty, why are you knitting?

Because I like knitting, darling.

But you like animals!

Yes. I like lots of things, not just animals and knitting.

What things do you like Aunty?

Well, I like reading and cooking and being outside and music and making things. Lots of things.

Do you like people?

Yes I like people.

Do you like friends?

Yes. I love my friends and family.

….

A short pause whilst my niece processed this as I finished my round and put my knitting away. And then…

Aunty, you like everything!!!

I hid my smile at the simplicity of her four year old’s perspective on life. Kissed her bonny wee head and we went off down to the beach hand in hand to play, kayak, swim and build a series of sandcastles decorated with shells and sea glass along the shore, one for each member of our family.

But maybe she’s right. If you like people and love friends and family maybe you really do “like everything”. Not in the individual micro sense of course, nobody likes every single thing. But in the overall macro sense. Love really does make the world go round; a choice, an act of will, sometimes through gritted teeth and over misunderstanding, pain and differences. With love, those differences then become the things that bind us together, not the things that divide us.

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Advent: December 15th

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Deck the halls with boughs of holly!

Well, OK, maybe not this kind of holly!!

This is some Sea Holly I went looking for in the summer. When I was little my mother used to like the Sea Holly that grew on the sand dunes of the beach on our walk to the shops.

That area has changed a lot since the early 80’s and I hadn’t seen any in recent years when I’d been back but I spotted some this summer in its old place. It had not started to turn the beautiful shades of blue at this point but I love the structure of the flower head, so delicate and silvery.

Advent: December 11th

Today is just a picture I liked – a baby wild rabbit I photographed playing at the edge of the beach in July.

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It’s a beach I used to play on when I was a really small girl – back then it was my favourite, probably because it was small and so sandy and also because it was further away and I had to wait for someone to take me there so we went less frequently. There was also a sort of cave in one corner which is near to where this rabbit’s warren is. It was nice to go back there with my younger nephew and niece as they’re about the same age as I was when I loved playing here.

The rabbits around here are incredibly tame. We were standing very close and they didn’t attempt to run; they didn’t seem to mind our presence at all. They were quite well camouflaged against the drab colours of stone and sand until they moved so perhaps they felt safe in this corner.

Because the wind was chilly on our walk, my 3 yr old niece was wearing a pink all-in-one hat/scarf which has rabbit ears and it was rather sweet to see her in her little bunny hat watching the baby bunnies herself.

Advent: December 5th

I don’t know about you but I think I’m in need of something sunny and cheerful to look at today! If you’re in the UK you’ll understand what I’m talking about – yet another storm has come rampaging across Britain, especially in the Northern half of the British Isles. My thoughts are with those further up-country than me who are having to deal with flooding and high winds on a far greater scale than we are.

So the least I can do is dig out a sunny happy photograph for today’s Advent image.

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This is a male Common Blue butterfly I spent an awful lot of time chasing across the headlands in August. I spotted several of them feeding on nectar, tumbling about in the sea breeze like so many pieces of sun baked blue confetti and I was determined to get at least one picture of them. But as soon as I got my camera focused and steady they’d be up and off onto the next one.

Marley had to be on a lead around here because of grazing sheep so he got very grumpy being dragged about in random butterfly-lead zigzags by the lead looped over one wrist and his impatient jerking also didn’t help my image-taking skills! Every now and then I’d tire of taking blurry snaps of Sea Mayweed flowers sans the flittery butterflies and put my camera away only for another blue butterfly to zip into view and saucily taunt me with a flirt of its wings as it settled on another flower head just a wee bit further out of focus…

To Marley’s eternal relief I finally got a couple of pictures of some Sea Mayweed flowers actually with this butterfly perched on it and we called it a day before he bounced over the cliff edge out of sheer boredom. And then we went home for a swim in the cold clear sea followed by hot coffee (me) and biscuits (Marley).

Advent: December 4th

This is a slightly odd photograph so I hope nobody objects to it but I find all nature fascinating, even the things that aren’t especially lovely at first glance. I’m also intrigued by things you don’t really often get to see and an ocean-living fish like this one is one of them.

When I was in Anglesey at the beginning of October with my brothers, we found this Lesser-Spotted Dogfish washed up on the beach when we went for a walk.

DSC_0006.jpgIf you’re a sea angler in British waters you probably don’t like dogfish very much; they have a habit of being caught when you don’t want them to apparently! I’ve never caught a dogfish and it’s a very long time since I’ve been sea fishing anyway so I haven’t seen a dogfish since I was a child.

Back then I used to love hunting for “Mermaid’s Purses” along the shoreline – the fanciful name for the rather prosaic egg cases of the dogfish.I much preferred to think of them of little bags from Merfolk even though I knew they didn’t exist. Mind you, I also thought the egg-case thing was pretty cool too…

I also thought it was interesting that once upon a time the rough skin of the dogfish was used as a sort of sandpaper and best of all to my young mind, they’re members of the shark family. There seemed something wildly romantic about seeing a shark in real life. Albeit a rather small and whiffy one!

I’m not sure what finished this poor doggie off – it wasn’t there at the previous low water and had apparently been snacked on by a hungry seagull since the tide rolled out. But even in it’s deceased and tatty state, there’s something rather fascinating about it’s elegant shape and primitive form. I hope you agree with at least some of that and I’ve not put you off your Friday fish dinner!! :0)

Build a Batt Box – May/June 2015 – Shipwreck!

The theme for BarberBlackSheep’s Build a Batt Box May/June 2015 is

Shipwreck!

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When I first did the Shipwreck colour way a couple of months ago on a yak/silk base I was thinking of the iconic images of the wreck of RMS Titanic, the “unsinkable” ship that famously hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sank in 1912 with tremendous loss of life. The wreck was discovered in 1985 by a team headed by Robert Ballard from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. As a child I was fascinated by the article later published in National Geographic Magazine and talking to my grandmother she remembered hearing about it on the wireless as small girl because it was so appalling a disaster (this being a couple of years before The First World War which quickly overtook her life rather tragically).

For this BaBB I knew I could draw on similar colours and images but I was at a loss as to how gain suitable photographs to use with my fibre images – clearly I couldn’t use other copyright images (although you can view some of the inspirations on my Pinterest board if you’d like to). And equally obvious was the fact that I couldn’t just pop down underwater and take a few snaps! So I gave it a little more lateral thought and as I was scheduled to be in Anglesey again for a few days I turned my thoughts there.

Anglesey, or Ynys Mon in Welsh – the island sitting on the North-West coast of Wales – is rich in many ways. It has achingly beautiful scenery and a wealth of natural fauna and flora, both terrestrial and marine. The geology of the island is of great scientific interest as well as being fascinating to the amateur observer and it is steeped in history, not only of the comparatively recent history of the past 1,000 years where Wales struggled to retain independence from the English Crown and of internecine Welsh feudal wars but also of ancient prehistory stretching back several thousand years to preChristian times. In the present day it is also plays host to holiday-makers who troop there in their thousands to take advantage of the amazing land and seascape for outdoor pursuits.

The coast of the United Kingdom is known for having some of the greatest tidal rips in the world, the tide can rise and fall in places by 20ft and creates huge currents and tides and Anglesey has its share of this. This is exhilarating for those with the skills to take advantage of them but combined with the unpredictable Welsh weather can make the coast a dangerous place if you get caught out. Over the course of history many unfortunate ships have come to grief around it’s coastline, particularly in the 19th century. Those who make their living from the sea have sought to make dangerous shores safer, from pilots with local intimate knowledge of the coastal shelf and sea floor, lighthouses and beacons to warn of dangerous coasts, markers and buoys at sea.

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And in more recent time the invaluable bravery of rescue services such as the life boats of RNLI, the armed services RAF Search and Rescue teams and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

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Despite this, lives are still lost at sea. But this past weekend I decided to focus on walking the coasts near, and reflect on, two 19th C wrecks, one with no loss of human life and the other with tragic loss.

Just a few hundred yards from the cottage where my great-Grandfather spent the last years of his life is the bay where the wreck of SS Missouri rests.

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Below these waves, the largest wreck on Anglesey lies in shallow water on the seabed broken into several pieces. It’s a very popular wreck for divers due to its easy access and lack of currents. I’d never been here before despite hearing about the area from family members so it was doubly interesting to me to visit and walk the headlands and beaches.

SS Missouri was a former cotton carrying ship but was carrying several hundred cattle from America when it ran aground in 1886 in a terrible snowstorm. The crew were rescued but a large number of the animals on board were drowned when it sank.

I found this video of diving the Missouri online – the visibility is variable in this area but it’s still interesting to see below the surface.

Wrecks are a great place for marine life, they form an artificial reef to take up residence in, to hide in and to hunt from and for marine plants to anchor themselves too which is another reason wrecks are so popular with divers. I also found this gorgeous footage from a little further South round the coast, not on a wreck but I’ll include the link to the page so you can see just what’s down there! (you have to click on the play icon to start it)

Last weekend I took a break from my work to drive over to the east coast of the island so as to walk part of the Anglesey Coastal Path and visit the site of the most tragic wreck in the island’s history.

On a stormy night in October 1859, disaster overtook the steam clipper Royal Charter. She was returning from the gold fields of Melbourne, Australia laden with a staggering amount of gold nuggets and gold dust as well as cargo of wool and other items and many passengers on board. As with Titanic, a certain amount of hubris seems to have been involved. Whereas the Titanic was claimed to be unsinkable, the Royal Charter had a reputation to maintain as being one of the fastest ships of its time. Despite the hazy atmosphere and windy conditions as they crossed from Ireland to Britain the captain was of course unaware of the enormity of the tremendous storm brewing up and he decided not to take shelter in the safety of Holyhead Harbour but press on to Liverpool – the final few hours of a journey that had taken a record 59 days.

As they rounded the coast of Anglesey suddenly 100mph gusts of wind beat down on them from the North and despite the attempts to stop the ship from running aground, the crew and ship were powerless against what was reputed to be the worst storm of the 19th century. They cut loose the masts and rigging and threw them into the sea and dropped anchors but eventually their anchors broke and the increasing winds swept them onto a sandbank.

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In the dark and swell despite being just a few yards from shore, rescue was almost impossible. In the dim light of breaking dawn though, a brave Maltese seaman aboard swum ashore with a rope so as to sling a bosun’s chair to rescue some of the people on board and the equally brave folk of Moelfre who saw the intact but beached ship, ran to raise the alarm and turned out in some numbers to attempt a rescue from land. But sadly the tide was rising and lifted the ship from where it lay and smashed it against the rocks. Very few of the passengers that spilled from the broken ship made it safely to shore and of the 490 passengers only 40 men survived the tragedy and none of the women or children who had been sent to wait below deck whilst the men fixed the rescue lines so as to prevent them being swept overboard by the waves breaking over the ship…

In the days that followed, the sad recovery of bodies washing up on shore took place. The local clergymen were overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of dead filling their graveyards and the task of writing to and comforting the bereaved. Also overwhelmed was the person appointed Receiver of Wreck as the fabulous wealth of gold carried on the Royal Charter turned up onshore in the following days and in the clothing on the bodies of the dead which proved a tremendous draw to those eager to salvage from such rich pickings. Although sadly the good brave folk of Moelfre were unjustly accused of plundering the dead whereas in reality they had risked their own lives to try to save even a few hapless gold diggers from the waves. Some weeks later, Charles Dickens came in his capacity as a journalist to interview those involved in the rescue and as so often happens when tragedy strikes the whole area was greatly affected by the events and a memorial to the dead was set up overlooking the bay.

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Walking here a few days ago on a hazy, calm Spring day it’s hard to imagine just how terrifying the waves can be although I’ve seen for myself some the awesome power of the sea when tormented by wind. Strolling along the coastal path heady with the scent of gorse and looking out to sea it was hard to equate the peace and tranquility of the coast with the horror and death in the same place more than 150 years before.

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Wrecks however were so common here that a shelter was set up on an island in the bay next door at Lligwy and Dulas and kept stocked with food and supplies so that anyone lost at sea in the bay and had the relative good fortune of being washed up on its shores had at least some chance of survival whilst awaiting rescue once the storm had abated rather than die a lingering death of exposure and hypothermia in a time where rescuers did not have the skills, technology and equipment available to us today and that perhaps we’re in danger of taking for granted whilst out in pursuit of recreation around the coast.

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As I reached the point of my walk where I planned to turn round at Traeth Lligwy I came upon this rustic graffiti painting of the seascape, set up on the coast with the vista that inspired it visible beyond.

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Although I’ve enjoyed many trips out at sea sailing, fishing and rowing as well as travelling on large ferries to Ireland and France, I’ve never felt truly at ease with the power of the ocean nor how its deceptively tranquil face can transform so quickly into one of the greatest powers in the natural world. Dwelling on the humanity of the Royal Charter and its loss I was grateful to be walking on terra firma with the tide safely low and with a good few hours before it came racing inland along the flats of the beach. I trod carefully along the sandy beach stopping to look at the rocks formed 400 million years before when Wales sat below the equator and marvelled at the cracked rusty yellow rocks formed by drying mud flats in a desert so unlike the chilly coast today…

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…and along stony beaches with curious aerated “pumice-like” stones and awash with empty blue mussel shells. I was happy to stoop and touch the ground and stop to look around and savour the day.

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In a quirk of fate, since I’ve been home I looked up some information in my father’s cousin’s autobiography which includes details of the area to check some facts regarding the cottage my great-Grandfather (his Grandfather) lived in and the words “Royal Charter” caught my eye. In researching his other family line unconnected to our mutual one, he found that his paternal Great Grandfather was a gold digger who met with great success in Australia – finding a famously vast nugget of gold. He was due to return from another gold seeking trip on the fated 1859 Royal Charter voyage but fortuitously for him he was unable to do so and thus almost certainly avoided losing his life.

So there you have “Shipwreck!”, a study in blue and gold. I hope that you find it as interesting as I did this past weekend as I searched for something to anchor this theme into. The hand dyed fibre that make up the box include the usual wools included; merino tops and hand dyed BFL.

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A hand carded batt of sea blue and green flecked with hints of glittering gold and hand dyed blue alpaca.

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And the usual selection of mostly hand dyed fibres; tussah silk, silk noil, tencel, soysik, faux cashmere, bamboo, ramie and firestar.

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The first boxes will go on sale this evening at 7pm BST at BarberBlackSheep on Etsy.

 Will you find gold in yours…?

Sea Fever

I’ve always loved John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever; it’s opening line of

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky

has an urgency about it that I understand too well. But the second verse:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

makes me feel like the tide is running in my very blood. I’ve spoken often to others of my hiraeth or “blood-remembering” of a certain place from my childhood and I’ve spent a few days there working this week and this verse just sums it all up really.

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I’ve also discovered I’m becoming more interested in birds than I ever thought I would be. I know so very little about them and this area of North Wales is fabulous for bird watching, so for once I looked up and realised how ignorant I am about the seabirds wheeling above my head. As a child I thought seagulls were just generic grey and white avian waste disposal systems for getting rid of the fish and shellfish trimmings from our summer fishing excursions! Being there in late winter and spring means I see different birds because of migratory and breeding patterns and it’s piqued my curiosity. It’s really hard to take pictures of flying birds with a point and shoot camera when you’re standing on a headland in strong winds just attempting to keep your feet but I had fun trying! It was so breezy the gulls were flying backwards…

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Some of the birds I recognised gave me a real thrill. There are always the super common Herring Gulls and rarer Great Black-backed Gulls (and in summer Kittiwakes) but it’s many years since I’ve seen a Cormorant. We used to see lots of them when we went out along the coast in the boat mackerel fishing. As a child it intrigued me how they would stand on the cliff faces holding out their wings to dry. A black arrow darting over the waves made me follow it’s path from my perch on the rocks and sure enough this Cormorant alighted amongst the sunbathing gulls on a little rocky island and arranged it’s wings in the way I remembered. I was really pleased I’d remembered to chuck my little camera in my bag (I was only on the way to the shop!) and zoomed it as far as I could.

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I could hear Curlews mewing overhead – we have them around our home here quite far inland so they aren’t strangers to me – but thanks to the dazzling sunshine I didn’t realise until I uploaded the pictures that I’d caught a blurry Curlew on camera too.

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I saw my first ever pair of Oystercatchers standing on the shoreline below the house but I was as surprised to see them as they to see me and they’d taken off before I could grab my camera, seeing these was a big bonus even if I didn’t get to view them for more than a few seconds, both wading and in flight.

Other birds I saw but couldn’t photograph were the Ravens that the area is named for, Choughs, Arctic Terns and although I couldn’t absolutely swear to it, a Manx Shearwater swooping over the surface of the waves – it’s late enough for them to have arrived certainly but although I thought it was a shearwater I wasn’t certain. Next time I’ll be armed with a bird book too!

Mundane things like popping to the shops to fetch milk are hardly chores when you’re running over the headland and along the beach…

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And there was a fair amount of the flung spray and blown spume certainly.

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The scent of seaweed was mingled with the sweet honey tones of blooming daffodils and gorse on the headland warmed by the sun

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Back at the cottage I was hard at work stripping away years of neglected overgrowth and brambles, I worked solidly whilst I was there and slept like a log with the sea air and physical exertion but still found time to pause to eat my meals and have my coffee breaks sitting in the sun. Sun warmed stone at your back, a glorious view, bracing sea breeze, good coffee, SeaSalt chocolate and knitting. What more could you ask for?

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Especially when your knitting colour coordinates with the landscape…

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Not all the birds I spent my time with were specific to the coast. The hedges were teeming with garden birds familiar with back home, robins and all the usual Little Brown Jobs were squabbling over the bugs I was turning up and I shared my lunch one day with a super tame blackbird. I thought I was imagining it to start with but as I watched it wobble and dip on the wall I realised it actually only had one leg.

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As someone who has dealt extensively with amputee animals in my previous job as a vet nurse (and my own rescue dog is missing a limb) I’m intrigued by how animals cope in the wild with missing limbs. I’d have thought that this is a disadvantage that would shorten life expectancy quite considerably where survival of the fittest is key in a harsh environment. However this cheeky chappy seemed to cope incredibly well and I suppose the mild climate helps provide easy feeding most of the year. He wasn’t scared of me and after a few minutes hopped off the wall and down onto the weed covered patio at my feet. Like my three legged dog he seemed to have worked out alternative coping mechanisms to deal with challenges and whilst it’s a good idea to stay on your feet (foot!) and keep balance by dipping your wings when danger is around, he evidently felt I wasn’t that scary and soon settled down on the ground on his tummy whilst he got down to the serious business of turning over leaves and debris to pick up worms. He was obviously quite full already as after a few minutes the sun was making him sleepy and he started to nod off and his eyes closed. I slowly stood up and moved into the house to fetch my camera, sure he would be frightened off by that but he was fine with me creeping around and I was able to take pictures of him and whisper to him for some minutes before he decided to casually mooch on somewhere else.

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I just hope I see him again next time I’m there!