31 October 2005

Pizza, timber buildings and horses!

After a pretty horrible week I was glad to see Friday come around so that we could have a bit of time to chill out and enjoy ourselves a little. After work Friday it was straight down the gym for a quick workout before heading off for a pizza and a beer with Lynda, Paul and Ali. OK, it kind of defeats the object of doing a workout, but I like my food too much to be a slave to good eating all the time!

The pizza was great, as was the salad bowl we shared (my bit of good eating!) but the unlimited trips to the ice cream machine were better! Even more so because of the chocolate buttons that Lynda piled on top of the second bowl full! I love them! After we'd eaten our fill we headed back to Paul and Ali's for coffee. A nice quiet evening just chatting and enjoying some chill out time.

Saturday I was in work until lunch time. Lynda picked me up at 12:30pm and, after going home for a quick change of clothes and a bite to eat, we headed off to Shrewsbury for the Bluehorses gig. The journey only took us just over an hour and a half leaving us plenty of time for a look around the town.

Many of the old timber framed houses are still in the town centre as are some of the old cobbled streets. We also had a quick look around the castle grounds but, as is often the case with such places, the castle itself had a lot of steel work up against it where restoration work was being carried out.

The early part of the evening was spent in The Bull pub having a meal and a couple of drinks. Cottage Pie, salad and potatoes was my choice, Lynda decided on gammon, eggs, pineapple and chips - we both went for the apple pie afterwards! So, at just after 8:00pm we walked back to The Buttermarket, the venue for the gig.

The first thing that hit me, almost literally, was the amount of old red brick in the place! The stage was in one of the end arches of the catacombes, underneath the main building, a great setting once the main lights were turned down and the spot lamps came on. The band took the stage at 10:00pm and rocked the place until just before midnight.

Highlights for me included Witch In Wedlock, Black Is The Colour and, one of the newer tracks, Billy. Crow On The Cradle was a new track to me and I'm sure it will become a 'horses classic! But the best was still to come in my mind - SKYCLAD! Saturday's performance of this track must be the best it's ever been played! The speed that Nat played the bass left myself and most others totally in awe! Oh, and it left Nat with some pretty nasty blisters on his fingers too!

After the gig we stayed around for a while chatting with everyone before finally saying our goodbyes at around 12:15am and heading for home.

Click below for photos!

Town photos!

Gig photos!

26 October 2005


With now just a little over 3 weeks until the British Heart Foundation walk my sponsorship total, so far, stands at just over £250.00! But, there's still plenty of time for that figure to increase!

You can sponsor me via the BHF web site on the following link....


24 October 2005


Sunday dawned dry and bright so Lynda and I decided we would join the Derby Local RSPB Group for their guided walk at Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire. Two days running that I'd been out birding, things must be looking up! After a little over half an hour drive we met up with the rest of the group, 22 people in total.

The first thing that struck me, apart from the two low flying hot-air balloons, was the lack of water in the reservoir! The past few months must have been a lot drier than I'd thought - we really do need a lot of rain if our water supplies are to recover. Thankfully we didn't get any on Sunday!

The first part of the walk took us through a section of very old deciduous woodland that was somewhat lacking in bird life. I did hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker but that was about all. What it did hold was some interesting fungi, unfortunately many were damaged by people walking the paths or had been eaten by birds or animals, but I did get one or two decent photos.

At the end of the woodland we came out on to the banks of the reservoir. Here we saw Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Goldeneye, Teal, Mute Swan and 2 male Pintail. There were also around 100 Black-headed Gull roosting on the water's edge and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. A steady walk along the reservoir edge also gave views of Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Grey Heron. In the surrounding fields and hedgerows we also saw Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch and Robin.

The best find of the day for me was the huge fungi that were growing in long grass by the path. There was a group of four of the things - sorry don't know what they were called! - all over 12 inches across and standing almost as tall! I passed a good few minutes taking pictures of them!

We continued to the far end of the reservoir and another wooded area. Here there was a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. New birds for the day here included Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Goldfinch and Linnet. Views over the water gave us a single female Goosander, 9 Shelduck, 2 Shoveler, 2 male Pochard and a further 3 male and 1 female Pintail. Nine Golden Plover flew overhead with around 200 Lapwing. By now it was just after 12:00pm and time to head back to the car. By the end of the walk we had seen a total of 40 species of birds. Not a bad count for a Sunday morning stroll.

On the way out, from the car park to the road, we stopped twice so I could take more photos of fungi!

22 October 2005

Shardlow stroll

Another Saturday off work and another grey start to the day! Isn't it summer yet? Never mind, get out and make the most of the fact that it's dry! First, breakfast! You can't start the day without a good cooked breakfast, well I can't.

As the weather could have gone either way I decided on staying local to home again, and with the last few days having been very wet I needed a walk that would be on reasonably firm ground. Shardlow canal was my choice as I hadn't been there for a couple of years, it would be fairly solid under foot and would hopefully give one or two good birds.

I parked on the edge of the village and within a 100yds or so of the canal path. First birds were a family group of Mute Swan, 2 adults and 3 of this years young. As I walked down the path they drifted up the canal and climbed out on to the lawn of one of the waterside houses - not sure I'd want them on my lawn!

The hedgerows along the canal give close views of Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Song Thrush. Every now and again a Moorhen would creep off into the Willows overhanging the water, trying to take cover as they saw me approach.

By 10:00am small numbers of narrow boats started to move down the canal, most seemed to be people out on their own boats but one or two were boats on hire for holiday use. The latter were easy to spot once they came to use the lock!

Overhead, Redwing had started to move through, a sure sign that autumn has arrived. In total around 40 birds went over in small groups, only days or even hours ago they would have been in Scandinavia. A small number of Goldfinch landed in the top of a dead tree, one or two Skylark flew up from fields by the path and a single Great Crested Grebe drifted down the river where it joined the end of the canal.

At this point I turned and retraced my steps back to the village. I'd taken just under an hour so far, a walk that without birdwatching could probably be done in less than half the time!

Extra birds seen on the walk back included a single Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Green and also Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a female Sparrowhawk hunting along a field edge.

Back in the village I had a short walk along to the old canal warehouse, which is now a pub, before heading back to the car. Must go back to the Clock Warehouse pub again soon, not been inside for years!

All together I saw a total of 36 species during the morning, not a huge count but much better than sitting in the house! Back at home I was met by our friendly garden Blackbird demanding to be fed! Why he couldn't eat the fruit that was out on the bird table I don't know, but he wasn't letting me in the house without some more!

17 October 2005

St. Neots Sunday!

5:45am and I'm up and in need of breakfast! One large bowl of cereal followed by sausage, beans, toast and scrambled eggs and I'm ready to face the day! By 7:00am I'm on my way to St. Neots for the last race meeting I'll do this season.

The trip took just over 90mins, with very little traffic (not surprising at this hour!) but quite a bit of mist and fog along the way. Once at the track I had a quick look around but couldn't see Gary or his car - could have been because of the fog, but more likely because he hadn't arrived yet! Oh well, time for a quick look at some of the SEGTO cars as the mist started to clear.

The saloon cars didn't look that different from our NASA cars but the specials certainly did! It was like going back 25 years! OK, the running gear may be modern but the shape of cars was from way back!

After Gary arrived we had a quick look at the track, decided on what tyres needed fitting to the car and then watched a few races before it was time for the MG to hit the track. Five or six races later and the tyres were changed back to the first set, as the track conditions had changed so much! Oh well, time for our first heat!

After a slightly slow start to the first heat the M219 MG ZR was soon up to speed and moving through the pack and, by the time the chequered flag fell, another race win was in the bag!

The second heat should also have been another win but a slight mistake going into the 3rd and 4th bend one lap from the flag, saw one of the local drivers get a better line through the corner and take 1st place and Gary second.

The final... well we'll never know! A big first bend bunching saw the MG take a heavy smack to the nearside front wing going in to the corner, which was only a panel damaged, but coming out of the bend the same car took another, bigger, hit at us! This time breaking a driveshaft as he hit the MG's front wheel - out of the race Gary went! So much for non-contact motorsport!!

Not quite the end to the season we wanted but all in all a good day with some good racing and even plenty of sunshine in the end! Roll on next season!

15 October 2005

End of the week...

Just a quick update!

Work was quiet this morning so I took the opportunity to give the fish tank a full service. The glass was cleaned inside and out, the filters cleaned again and around 30% of the water changed. It all took around three and a half hours but the end result was well worth it - the tank looked great again afterwards. I also got a bite off the biggest fish in the tank again, three times it's done that now! Once more and I'm either going in after him or he's coming out!

The weather for Sunday is looking like it will be OK for racing, temperature of around 60F, light winds and staying dry. By this time tomorrow I'll know if the forecast is correct! Full details and hopefully some pictures late on Sunday evening - if I get back in time!

13 October 2005

The week so far......

Monday... I found out that I was a Lottery winner!!! Lynda checked our tickets and my numbers had come up - £10.00 for me then! Not even enough to pay my petrol money for St. Neots this weekend, but it all helps!

Tuesday... We came close to flooding the showroom at work! We have a rather large fish tank, over 17ft long and 6ft tall, that I help look after. Just before I left on Tuesday I fed the fish and, as part of my normal routine, I had a quick look at the filtration system. Oops! It's not flowing through one of the tanks correctly! If I'd not spotted it then I think within 4 or 5 hours we would have had a rather large problem! Had it sorted in around half an hour before heading off to the gym.

Wednesday... My mate Gary phoned and we are all OK for racing this weekend! He must have worked pretty hard on the MG this past week or so because the poor car was far from good after the last meeting! Now we just need the weather on our side again. It's another trip down to the St Neots track but this time just for a fun meeting. The meeting is a once a year event that allows cars from the NASA organization to race against cars from the SEGTO clubs. Two totally different rule books and totally different types of car! Should be fun. I'll try for pictures of the more interesting cars!

Today... A quiet day at work mainly due to us having no computer system working for part of the afternoon! The PC's themselves were working fine, as were the internet connections, but the programme we use for workshop bookings, parts orders and sales and also car sales did not want to play! An update was e-mailed to us from the IT company and, after 3 attempts at running it, we were back up and running. After work it was another trip to the gym, then home to do this update.

09 October 2005



That's the web address you need so that you can donate to this very worthy cause via the sponsored walk I'm doing!!!

My current total now stands at just over £234 which I'm quite pleased with but please, if you haven't already done so, consider adding your name to the on-line sponsorship page!

Thank you so much!

Back To Birding!

I can't believe it's almost 4 months since I last did some "proper" bird watching! OK, I've been on 2 or 3 walks during that time, where I have seen birds, but today was my first time out with my binos and scope since June 22!!

After a couple of heavy rain showers yesterday this morning dawned dry and bright and by 7:45am I was out the door and on my way to the first stop of the morning. Ambaston Gravel Pits is a small area of old gravel workings and farm land which is only around 15 minutes from home, by car, so makes an ideal local patch when time is short. Today I spent 2hrs there and although I only walked around 1/2 a mile from the car and back I saw 36 species of birds. Not a big total but it was just good to be out in the early morning air!

The main pool held c500 Black-headed Gull, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 25 Coot, 4 Teal, 4 Mute Swan, 9 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck and 2 Little Grebe.

The fields and surrounding hedgerows gave, amongst others, 2 Red-legged Partridge, c40 Stock Dove, 20 Linnet, 2 Yellowhammer, a single Kestrel and one Grey Wagtail. A pair of Stonechat were flitting around the tops of a reedbed. Flyovers included c40 Canada Geese, 4 Jay, 4 Skylark and a single Lapwing.

As I started back to the car a slight movement on one of the small islands caught my eye and on checking through my 'scope I found a Snipe creeping around the water's edge. Within a few minutes I had counted a total of 13 that I'd missed earlier! Just as I was about to walk off, a shrill, pig-like squeal stopped me once more. Definitely a Water Rail, but would it show? Five more minutes and I had another bird on the day list! Not stunning views but they very rarely are with such a skulking bird!


My second site was Barrow upon Trent. The only public access here is to a small lake that has been left after the gravel works had finished with it. The last time I came here was back in March this year when a Slavonian Grebe was present - nothing that good today!

I walked from the village, down the lane to the lake, around the lake and back, a total time of just 85 minutes. There was nothing much of note here but the walk was good and I did see 25 Pochard, 50 Tufted Duck, 10 Great Crested Grebe and 7 Mute Swan on the lake.

Other sightings included 1 Jay, 3 Bullfinch and a Green Woodpecker. Two Buzzard circled on thermals a short way away for a time with one landing close by at one point.

All in all not a bad morning! 45 species in total and all within 10 miles of home!

03 October 2005

Some you win, some you lose!

And it was all going so well!

Then.....BANG!!! And what a bang it was!

The East Midlands Champion Of Champions race was the first race of the day on Sunday and after a week of on and off rain the track was always going to be a bit on the tricky side. For Gary this wasn't proving that much of a problem, he was quick away from the start and making ground up on the other cars from the word go.

The main problem with these sort of races is the handicap system used - the lower classes of car, less modified than ours, start up to a full lap ahead of the quickest. This makes for a more exciting end to the race as, in theory, the last lap or two will see everyone in with a chance of taking the win. Great for the spectators, not so if you're the one battling from the rear of the grid!

Around 3 laps into the race and Gary was on one of his famous wide line charges around the pit bend, going right around the outside of one of the Class 3 cars (modified front engine, rear wheel drive) as if he wasn't there! Just as Gary set off up the back straight the Class 3 "lost it", shooting off his racing line and taking Gary straight in to the post and wire fence! End of race!
The end result was a re-run, that we were not allowed back in, as we had been the reason for the stoppage, and some pretty heavy damage to the car! All the left hand rear of the car was pushed in around two or three inches and the rear wheel pulled out of line by about 4 inches! Some quick work in the pits (thanks Micky Manning for your help!) and the car was sort of straight enough to run again.

As the meeting wore on we became aware that if we could just get the very battle scarred MG to the finish of the next two heats then Gary would still win a hat-trick of titles! The overall Club Points Championship had us 8 points clear going in to this last meeting. Our nearest rival took a first and a second in his races; Gary did a second and third which left him Overall Club Points Champion, as well as Class 6 Club Champion and also League Class 6 Champion!

In the end not a bad day but the damage picked up now means that the planned trip to St. Neots, in two weeks time, is in the balance.