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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Solstice

The sun goes down over the Irish Sea in Cumbria on the shortest day if the year

The Winter Solstice this year was an extra special occasion as my friend Simon arrived from Australia with his daughter Susie to spend the Festive Season with me in Maalie Court. With their first day seeing nice weather, a spin round some of the South Cumbria Lakes was a priority.
Simon and Susie - we take lunch at the Ratty Arms in Ravenglass

Wasdale in thin Solstice afternoon sunshine

Simon seems dwarfed by the famous screes of Wasdale

At dusk the important Ancient Custom and Practice at Maalie Court was the Coronation of the Solstice Queen with her coronet of holly. Susie duly honoured us by accepting this role (last year's Solstice Queen is here).

Susie wears the Coronet of Holly as Maalie Court Soltice Queen 2007

During the evening I received a phone call from younger son Carwyn (the subject of the previous blog post) to instruct me to open one of the gifts he has sent for my Christmas Tree. I duly did so and found it to be a wonderful Solstice present - a "Construct your own Stonehenge" kit. I duly assembled it and with strategic use of a tea-light candle was able to simulate the Solstice sunshine shining through the standing stones.

Stonehenge at the Solstice re-created on my mantelpiece

Friday, December 21, 2007

Croeso i Heledd / Welcome to Heledd

For the second time in as many months I was presented with a grandchild - this time a grandaughter from younger son Carwyn and his wife Kathryn (the first grandchild is here).

Born in Carmarthen on 6th Decemeber she is named Heledd Non Tywyn. Carwyn writes: "I can confirm that 'Tywyn' will be Heledd's formal surname. Tywyn is taken from 'Porth Tywyn', the Welsh name for our new location, Burry Port....It has not been uncommon for some Welsh speaking families to create a new surname from an existing place name".

Carwyn with mother Eurgain in his birth town of Leicester

Carwyn (in red) with (left to right) Great Aunt Ceinwen; Grandfather ("Taid") the Rev. Iorwerth Jones; Grandmother ("Nain") Nesta Jones; brother Alun and mother Eurgain

Slightly uncertain of the snow...

Carwyn the football fan - arriving at Glasgow Central station at about 5.00am on a freezing Saturday morning

Carwyn catches a bigger fish than his dad!

Carwyn and wife Kathryn graduate together with their doctorate degrees from Cardiff University

Heledd with mother Kathryn

Carwyn the father

Monday, December 17, 2007

Big Dave in Ireland

December saw me taking a well-earned break by Ryanair to Shannon, Ireland, to spend a few days with friend, former student and Maalie Courtier Big Dave. Dave is a Project Officer with Birdwatch Ireland (roughly the Irish equivalent of the RSPB) and when I visited him in July 2006 he was a Fieldwaorker for the endangered population of Corncrakes in the Shannon Callows (you can see an account of that visit here.) Then, in summer, the River Shannon was confined within its banks, generating excellent breeding habitat for Corncrakes. In winter, the Shannon valley is a flood plain with flood water covering huge areas which are attractive to waterfowl (we found Whooper and Mute Swans, Pintail, Wigeon and Mallard).

Big Dave in summer 2006

The Shannon Callows in Winter with the flood plain under water
Dave has moved on from Corncrakes and is now the Project Officer for Barn Owls and we spent some time during my visit checking ruined castles and nest boxes for evidence of occupation. One evening we waited at dusk at a known site and, on cue, a pair of Barn Owls emerged from a chimney and disappeared into the gathering darkness for their evening's hunting.

Dave checks a Barn Owl nest box high in a ruined castle

Relaxing in Dave's home with a drink in front of a warm peat fire....

...before a pint (or two) of the "black stuff" in a cosy pub in Banagher
The final day was spent on a trip to the west coast at Galway Bay where some wintering seabirds, including Black Guillemot and Great Northern Diver were identified, helping to bring our final bird list for the visit to 80 species.

The sun goes down over the eponymous Bay