Spring Flowers along the Cromford canal.

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. 

Leewood Pumphouse near High Peak Junction.

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.

Wild Garlic in bud.

Making Winter by Emma Mitchell

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.

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.

Wildflowers during Lockdown

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 pick most wildflowers for 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 .

Blackthorn 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. 

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.

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.

I am looking forward to seeing more flowers opening during the month of June and how these alter the colour of the fields.

Signs of Autumn Fruits and Seeds.

I know it is still Summer and this year we are enjoying the weather and at last we can talk about the Summer of 2013. Recently I started to look for signs of Autumn fruits and seeds while walking along an old railway track at Hassop in Derbyshire. After a quick stop to eat some delicious Raspberry Pavlova Hope Valley Ice Cream, which was so good I forgot to photograph! On my walk I found lots fruits and seeds to take photos of and here they are.

Continue reading Signs of Autumn Fruits and Seeds.

High Peak Trail, Derbyshire

The High Peak Trail is one of my favourite places to walk in Derbyshire. Today is looking lovely and so the question is, where to go? Possibly to the High Peak Trail, Derbyshire!

Here are a few pictures I took on my last visit. The first is of Leawood Pump House which is the pumping station which can still pump water from the River Derwent up into the Cromford Canal just beyond High Peak Junction. This is not actually on the High Peak Trail but the trail meets the Cromford Canal at  High Peak Junction, very near to the Pump House.

Continue reading High Peak Trail, Derbyshire