I love to walk along the Cromford Canal whatever the weather. Here is a short video of one very wet day.
The canal is beautiful on any day but especially in the early Spring sunshine. April 14th 2022 promised to be sunny so I decided to go for an early morning walk. By early I mean 8.30 which I know would not be everyones definition of early. It did however mean that there were not too many others, out walking the canal path. Deciding to start from Cromford was a really good idea as when I arrived at High Peak Junction, (the name now used to describe the site where the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, meets the Canal,) it was not too long before the small cafe opened for Coffee and a sandwich.
The canal used to run for 14.5 miles along the Derwent Valley to Ambergate where it turned to eventually join the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. It was part of a network of canals dug in the midlands to transport goods such as coal, limestone, cotton and lead.
The 6 mile stretch from Cromford to Ambergate has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The area is home to diverse wildlife and a haven for water voles, grass snakes, little grebes, moorhens, coots, dragonflies as well as myriads of ducks, geese and swans.
Returning to Cromford along the canal I was excited to see three water voles but it is still probably rather early for grass snakes. There was how ever a good variety of wildflowers making their appearance and many bees buzzing around.
St Peter’s churchyard was decorated with green Show the Love, handmade hearts in February 2021. Trees along the paths and the railings were decorated by local people and groups. This was a community effort to join in with the Climate Coalitions call to #Showthelove for our world.
2021 is a very important year for the future of our planet with the UN Climate Summit COP 26 taking place in Glasgow in November. We need the UK to ensure that the Climate Summit is successful and sets us on the path to a safe climate for all. Underpinning all of this is the imperative that global economic recovery is sustainable and doesn’t prevent us from limiting warming to no more than 1.5C.
Because of this the Climate Coalition are encouraging communities to have a Great Big Green Week in September as a call for action on climate change. Here are some of their ideas, ‘From local park clean ups and planting sessions, to concerts and community group stalls, you can plan events to suit your community. For guidance on how you can organise an event or green week, visit greatbiggreenweek.com‘
Already plans are being discussed in Belper and ideas being thought of. The date of the week is from September 18th – September 26th. Still hopefully plenty of time to plan.
I have recently read Rob Hopkins book, FromWhat Is to What If (Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want). It is full of inspiring stories of communities working together to improve their lives, the places where they live and helping to look after the planet. Rob emphasises how important it is to start by imagining the future you would like and then work out ways of helping that future happen.
We can all do something however small and lots of small things do make a difference. We can also join in collective movements to make sure our Government and local authorities know that we think the issue of Climate Change and the Climate Crisis must be taken seriously.
In the last two years I have changed my gardening habits and have tried to think of ways to garden to help wildlife. In the garden we can make a difference and some of what we need to do actually saves time and money. Last year we only mowed our lawn twice and in between allowed the grass to grow along with the daisies, dandelions and clover. One of the things that really bothers me is how many front gardens are paved over for cars. This could be mitigated with a few pots of suitable bushes and flowers to make a difference for bees and insects .
Another easy thing households can do is to stop using any sort of pesticide as this is harmful to all insects and other creatures who eat the insects. Last year I made my first wildlife pond in an old washing up bowl and then enjoyed seeing it regularly used by birds and frogs. A small effort can give a lot of enjoyment. This year I have gone a little larger by digging a bigger hole and using a liner. On one afternoon I watched starlings, blackbirds and sparrows taking turns to bath. One really important thing we can all do is to be untidy. When we do any pruning I now leave piles of branches under bushes and have seen wrens hopping about looking for bugs to eat.
More advice on gardening for wildlife can be found here, RSPB website and on the Wildlife Trusts website. Watching the birds, frogs, squirrels, bees and insects has given us so much pleasure during the last year of on and off lockdowns.
In the previous twelve months St Peter’s Church like other Belper churches has had to change the way it meets and serves the community. At times the building has had to remain completely closed. At the time of writing this, the church can open for two hours a day for private prayer and have a limited service on Sunday mornings. Most of the different church denominations in Belper have moved their services onto the internet with many now having their own Youtube channels. St Peter’s Parish Belper.
St Peter’s Church Belper
During this time St Peter’s has used its grounds and its trees as a way of bringing pleasure to many who walk through the churchyard on their journey around the town. This has included photographs showing the beauty of the natural world at Harvest Time starting in September 2020.
An Advent Calendar gradually appeared in December 2020, in the days leading up to Christmas. Trees were decorated by individuals and community groups with the organisation being coordinated by Belper Woollen Woods. As well as the items used to illustrate the Advent story, bible readings were also attached to the trees.
Belper Advent Calendar Day 2
Trees were decorated in many different ways with people using wool to knit and crochet, copies of paintings by local artists, needle felted pieces, embroidered fabric, painted MDF and wood. A fantastic stable was constructed by Mark and Josh Gregory and this was gradually filled with the main characters from the Christmas story.
In the month of January 2021 the trees were decked out with jokes, useful information and inspirational quotes.
In February 2021 the trees were decorated by people from the Belper community with Green Hearts. This was as a response to the Climate Coalitions ‘Show the Love’ (#showthelove) campaign, which is about using our voices to celebrate all the things we don’t want to lose, as a result of climate change.
There were so many fantastic hearts made by people of all ages, I decided to make a film about it and even in this it has not been possible to show every heart.
The season of Lent began on February 17th 2021 and prayer flags beautifully written by local school children were strung between some of the trees along the path.
Lent in the Churchyard.
There are plans ahead for an Easter display, and then from April 17th a POET-TREE trail organised as part of Belper Fringe by local poet Carol Brewer. More information can be found on the fringe website.
May 15th – 23rd, will see the trees dressed as part of 2021 Woollen Woods, as this year the woods come to town with trees decorated in both the Memorial Gardens, St Peter’s Churchyard, houses along Long Row and some shop windows.
I love books particularly books about the natural world. In the last few years there have been so many fantastic new books published, I am constantly tempted to buy another. I thought I would write about some that I have read, learnt from and enjoyed. The first is Making Winter, (A Creative Guide for Surviving the Winter Months) written and illustrated by Emma Mitchell.
Emma is a naturalist, author and workshop leader. She often writes about how contact with the natural world can improve mental health. In 2020 this has been such an important message helping many of us cope while not being able to take part in our usual activities. Emma has appeared on BBC TV in Countryfile and Springwatch speaking about the healing effect of nature.
The book is full of beautiful photography, lovely illustrations and contains instructions for making many different projects. She includes different methods for making jewellery, how to use water colours, keep a nature diary, make comforting food and drink, many nature inspired crafts and several crochet patterns.
A collection of things from a walk along the Cromford Canal
I just love this book both for the overal look of it and for the clear instructions. I have tried many of Emma’s ideas and they have all turned out well. The first idea I tried was on page 15, Preserving Autumn Leaves. This Autumn the colour of the trees has been amazing and I was eager to see if I could preserve the leaves and their colours. Emma explains how this can be done using a mixture of water and glycerine and this worked really well for me.
Preserving Autumn leaves as instructed by Emma
I usually prefer knitting to crocheting but used a pattern from this book to make a Crochet Lace Necklace and was very pleased with the result. Emma has more crochet patterns and instructions on her website silverpebble.net
In 2015 Emma had a pattern published in Mollie Makes magazine for making a semicircle winter garland. I made this and was once again very pleased with the end result. I love the shape of flowers like Cow Parsley and Common Hogweed and I think my garland looks a little like these.
I have tried several of the recipes from the book including Blackberry and Almond Streusel Cake, Plum, Orange and Ginger Blondies and Apple and Caramel Chelsea Buns. I love using berries foraged from hedgerows and this year has been an amazing year for hawthorn, rose hips and blackberries.
I plan to make many more of the creations from Emma’s book and would recommend it as a beautiful present to give someone. This book was published in 2017 and since then she has published another book in 2019, The Wild Remedy, (How Nature Mends Us) written as a nature diary. Once again a most beautiful book in which Emma shares how taking walks in the countryside near her home has helped her with ongoing depression which is particularly difficult for her during the winter months.
Emma does however occasionally travel further from her home in Cambridgeshire and in the chapter for the month of June she visits Rose End Meadows in Cromford Derbyshire. The meadow is not the easiest place to find but well worth the effort. Here is what Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has to say about the area, “The meadows are a set of 16 small, hilly fields which can be accessed from Cromford Hill. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust purchased the land in 1987 and have been managing it ever since. The views across this part of the county are spectacular but the real gems are two-fold – the incredible mix of wild flowers from spring right through to summer, and the knowledge that you are strolling through a landscape that has predominantly remained unchanged for over a century; a genuine agricultural and wildlife time capsule. “
I feel so lucky to live in Derbyshire such a beautiful county however small patches of nature can be found and enjoyed even in most of our cities. It is good for our health, both physical and mental to spend time outdoors.
We have really enjoyed visiting the National Stone Centre ever since we moved to Derbyshire over 20 years ago. Over this period of time we have seen things develop and have joined in with a number of activities at the centre.
I love walking along the Cromford Canal and this year have also started to explore woodland near the canal. It is possible to park near the Cromford Canal at Whatstandwell or in a couple of small parking places along Robin Hood Road. This area has a cluster of old stone quarries which started to be worked over 200 years ago. Most are now overgrown with trees and other vegetation, one however, Middle Hole Quarry is still working.
I have always enjoyed walking in the countryside and over the years have tried to recognise and learn the names of wildflowers. I have four wildflower books at home but even these do not show every flower as there are so many different ones in our lanes and fields. In more recent years there have been concerns about the demise of our native plants and the loss of wildflower meadows. It is thought that we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows since the 1930s. There is a lot of debate over the picking of flowers but it is important that children learn to love them and this could mean picking a few. This is what Plantlife has to say,
‘Contrary to widespread belief, it is not illegal to pickmost wildflowersfor personal, non-commercial use. In a similar vein, it’s not illegal to forage most leaves and berries for food in the countryside for non-commercial use.’
Path around the field.
During this period of Lockdown in 2020 we have been allowed to go out each day for exercise but asked to keep within walking distance of home. This has been quite an eye opener to discover all the flowers growing in the fields near Belper. I have been walking virtually the same route each day and have really noticed the succession of our beautiful, colourful flowers.
Looking across the fields towards the A6
Lockdown started on March 23rd and during this month I noticed Wood Anemones and Mouse-ears both small white flowers. Wood anemones grow in shady places and droop their heads at evening time or during bad weather. It used to be said that fairies slept in the flowers closing the petals around themselves. Mouse-ears seem to like a bit more sun and are considered to be a weed but I wouldn’t mind some in my garden. In the hedgerows blackthorn flowers open before the bush grows its leaves .
Mouse-ear wildflowers.Wood AnemoneBlackthorn flowers before the leaves come out.
April is the month when Bluebells and Wild Garlic appear and this year the bluebells seemed to be early, probably because of the warm weather. The fields are bright with the yellow flowers of dandelions and bluebells flower around the field edges and in the hedgerows. Hawthorne flowers open in the hedges and the edge of woods look glorious with Wild Cherry blossom. Cow Parsley starts to wave in the field margins and cuckoo flowers appeared wherever the grass was allowed to grow. It was good to have the time to really observe these flowers as so much of my usual rushing around had to stop.
Bluebells.Dandelion Wild Garlic.Cuckoo flowerHawthorn flowers open after the leaves.Cherry blossom
In May Dandelions gave way to Buttercups, just leaving their whiteish seed heads behind. Cow Parsley continued to open closely followed at the end of the month by the much sturdier Common Hogweed (not to be confused with Giant Hogweed). Also towards the end of the month I noticed large areas of one field turning white with the opening of Oxeye Daisies. Hawthorne flowers faded and the Elderflowers came into bud ready to open towards the end of the month. On the edge of one of the fields was a large patch of Yellow Rattle the first time I have seen this in the countryside. The rest of this field was covered in the yellow and oranges of Bird’s-foot trefoil and the lovely cerise pink of clover.
Buttercups.CloverOxeye daisiesYellow Rattle
June so far has seen the Elderflowers open properly in the hedges and some of the fields look red at a distance with the flowering of Sheep’s sorrel. I also notice pink Dog-roses covering the bushes and the small white flowers of Brambles are coming out.
I have really enjoyed walking over the same fields for weeks and noticing how different flowers come into bloom and change the colour of the fields and hedges. I had not really thought about this before and at the moment in June the fabulous Foxgloves are just starting to flower. The fields where the dandelions flowered earlier are now being covered by Rough hawkbit.
Rough hawkbitRough hawkbitFoxglove on the edge of the field.Foxglove
I am looking forward to seeing more flowers opening during the month of June and how these alter the colour of the fields.
The idea for creating Belper’s first Woollen Advent Calendar came from seeing how the Six Streets Community in Derby organised their window Advent Calendar. A different house unveils their decorated front window each day of advent. This is something that takes place in towns and villages up and down the country and the Eden Project have written a guide as to how to organise one.
In Belper we decided to do it differently for two reasons, firstly it was difficult to think of an area where there were enough houses with windows near the pavement and secondly we have so many groups and individuals who already enjoy the idea of Yarn Bombing. The trees chosen were in the main shopping area of the town along King Street, Campbell Street, Strutt Street and the Memorial Gardens.A list of trees was made with measurements, permission granted from all the relevant authorities and then an appeal put out on Facebook. In true Advent Calendar style 24 trees were decided on and these were adopted by shops, care homes, schools, churches, social/craft/news groups and individuals. On November 30th woollen squares with the numbers 1-24 were attached to the trees and leaflets were placed in shops, the library, cinema and churches. The leaflet informed the reader who had made each tree, gave websites and titles where they had been chosen.The Belper Woollen Woods facebook page was updated each day with that days tree. Each tree was unique and delighted the Christmas shoppers in the town. The trees will stay in place until January 5th so that people can have the opportunity to see the completed Community Advent Calendar.
The Advent Calendar has been a fantastic Community project with some truely amazing trees. A huge THANK YOU to all who were willing to be part of this.
This year, 2019 the Woollen Woods were slightly later than usual and this turned out to be a good decision as we were once again very lucky with the weather. As has happened in previous years some pieces were seen for a second time such as the stripy snakes.Most of the trees were decorated with new pieces however, with many trees being taken on by local groups. Transition Belper put up a Bee Kind to Nature Tree with an amazing beehive suspended high above our heads. A line of bees could be seen flying back to the hive and on close inspection a Queen Bee could be seen wearing a small handmade silver crown. Continue reading Woollen Woods 2019
I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield for the first time this week. I was very impressed by the variety of exhibitions both inside and out. The Park describes itself as a 500-acre outdoor art gallery and there are over 80 sculptures to see outside. The area was originally the landscaped parkland of Bretton Hall and so the setting is very beautiful. There is much to explore including Lower and Upper Lake , Menagerie Wood, the Chapel, Boat House, Shell Grotto, various galleries and much more.
We didn’t see all of it so there is plenty to go back for. Outside there is a group of figures made by Barbara Hepworth called, The Family of Man. I had been to her house and gallery in St Ives and hadn’t realised that she originally came from Wakefield.This photo is just one of the group which has been on loan to the park since the 1980s.