Annual Dawn Chorus at Ford & Etal

The first hour of the 21st annual Dawn Chorus at Ford & Etal was more akin to a January morning than to early May. The temperature was hovering either side of 0°C and the grass as we walked down the steep bank to the River Till was pure white. Those of us who had met there once before recalled the thick mist with which we had been confronted – a morning when birdsong meant everything because it had seemed that we would never see a single thing…                     Towards Hay Farm from Slainsfield Road spring

But the sun slowly rose and its rays became stronger.  With the light behind us we were able to stand for several minutes and watch – in amazement – a young male Crossbill and two females at the top of a few Scots Pine trees, in an arable landscape and far away from the thick pine woodlands in which they are normally seen.  Perhaps Crossbills send out small foraging parties in spring, to investigate every remaining tree in an area that might still bear cones after they have run out of supplies in larger woods?  They flew off as we eventually moved to go past them, only to sit on a distant ash tree until we had passed and then fly straight back again.

Down on the river, a male Grey Wagtail gave a wonderful display of dancing at the edge of the rushes, whilst above him a Great Spotted Woodpecker foraged almost upside down under a branch.  Further up the steep bank, in the bluebells (and in the sunshine) two Roe Deer made a lovely picture. Two Curlew flew overhead.  Linnets, Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers and Goldfinches were busy in the thick gorse bushes beside us and a Dipper flashed past.Crossbill May2014.3

Moving up the river, we finally emerged into the sunshine ourselves, stopping to study the scolding ‘chuck’ of two male Blackcaps arguing with each other at a corner of the wood.  Looking across the river there were great views of Blue Tits darting in and out of a nest box and a cacophony of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Another view of a Grey Wagtail was possible and a Long-Tailed Tit bounced past.  One or two people were intent on identifying the breed of sheep on the bank behind us.

Walking back up to Tindal House Farm, a Garden Warbler’s song burst from a patch of blackthorn and a Whitethroat scratched his song in the bushes below the farm.  We finally saw a Swallow – and a fine patch of Yellow Archangel growing on the edge of the wood. It was a real delight to sit down in the Granary Tea Rooms at Heatherslaw where an unending supply of Bacon, Sausage and Egg Rolls were soon on our plates.  Twenty-first birthdays are of course also an occasion for a glass of something celebratory, with or without the orange juice, and a suitable toast was proposed to the next 21 years of the Ford & Etal Dawn Chorus.

house sparrow3The total number of species recorded (43) was a little disappointing; there were some notable absentees.  A few members spent went to explore other corners of the estate after breakfast; their results are shown below in an additional list.

Seen/heard:  Mallard; Tufted Duck; Pheasant; Grey Heron; Lapwing; Curlew; Common Gull; Herring Gull; Rock Dove; Woodpigeon; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Skylark; Swallow; Grey Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Dipper; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Song Thrush; Blackcap; Garden Warbler; Common Whitethroat; Chiffchaff; Willow Warbler; Goldcrest; Long-tailed Tit; Blue Tit, Great Tit; Coal Tit; Jackdaw; Rook; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Linnet; Crossbill; Bullfinch; Yellowhammer

Additional species reported:  Buzzard; Moorhen; Meadow Pipit; Raven; Lesser Whitethroat; Tree Sparrow; Reed Bunting;

Outdoor Activities in Northumberland

For many people in Britain when it comes to going away on holiday, this means staying at home. No, we don’t mean their own home, but in the beautiful British Isles. For many of us we can’t imagine any better place to spend a week or two but right here and why wouldn’t we? With some of the most beautiful landscapes, activities, history and food on offer, why would you not want to explore – after all there’s no place like home.

This year you and your tribe have found yourself travelling to Northumberland. Maybe you are travelling north, or maybe you have travelled south. No matter what direction you have come from, you have one thing in mind… an unforgettable holiday! To help make unforgettable memories, you need to organise an unforgettable outdoor activity Go Ape!

Go Ape Matfen

Outdoor ActivitiesOne activity you should definitely take part in while in the area is Go Ape! Set in Matfen’s 300 acres of historic parkland. Take your tribe and enjoy the view from the tree tops at Britain’s number one Tree Top Adventure.

Go Ape is a great day out for the whole family, as long as your baboons are 10 years or over and at least 1.4 meters tall, there is no reason why they can’t get up in the trees.

The course at Matfen has high ropes and zip wires, the longest being 160 metres long! So not for the faint hearted but is sure to have the little people grinning from ear to ear. Although at 11 metres it isn’t the highest Go Ape course in the country, it is certainly a great place to start. With 38 crossing it will take your tribe between 2 to 3 hours to complete, leaving you plenty of time to explore the beautiful parkland from the ground.

Take a blast back to the pastOutdoor Activities

The wonderful thing about Go Ape is for the adults in the group it gives you a chance to get back in touch with your childhood. Doing what you used to do as a kid, climbing up in the trees. It’s the perfect opportunity to shake off that Monday to Friday suit and show the kids ‘how you used to do it when you were younger’. For the mini Tarzans in the group, it’s a great opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t get to do everyday, climbing in the trees. When we were younger we would scrabble around without any safety thoughts, however at Go Ape, safety is of the upmost importance. So you can be rest assured that your little ones are going to be safe at all times.

So what are you waiting for! When you visit the beautiful Northumberland, make sure you book your Tree Top Adventure  at Maften.

You know the old adage: “Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail.” Where the North East weather is concerned, it’s not always easy to plan ahead. As any natives of the region will tell you, bright blue morning skies can be chased away by dark storm clouds in the blink of an eye. But get yourself the right gear and there’s no reason you should let anything stop you from getting out on that bike and exploring the nation’s finest landscapes.

So, what should make it on to your checklist before you embark on a journey through the great outdoors? Here are our top 5 essential pieces of kit to keep you safe, secure and comfortable while you ride.

The not-so-humble bike helmet

Far from being a clunky bit of polystyrene, cycling helmets are now state-of-the art pieces of headgear. The technology within them has advanced as swiftly as the designs have changed. Whether it’s a short commute or a 100km epic, you’ll be looking for a combination of strong safety credentials and comfort from your helmet. After all, you don’t want protecting yourself against a road accident to give you a headache.

What you shouldwandee007 be looking for:

-          Safety rating

-          Comfort

-          Breathability

Our hot pick: The Bontranger Circuit

Staying safe with sunglasses

Don’t be fooled by the stereotypical posers pouting behind their Aviators. Cycling eyewear is as important for function as for fashion.

If you have ever suffered temporary blindness at the hands of rainwater, grit, dust or a fly hitting your eyeball at 30 mph, you’ll know how easily a hit to the eye can result in a trip down the grass verge – or, worse, into the middle of the road where a road traffic accident can be caused.

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-          Lens clarity

-          Changeable lenses

-          Snug but not painfully tight fit

Our hot pick: The Avenir Delta

Tough Tyres

Bike tyres are notoriously fragile and cycle accidents are common through punctures caused by nails, glass or even potholes. If you don’t want to be forced into fair-weather cycling, the answer lies in choosing the right rubber. In fact, recent years have seen the development of hardy tyres containing resistant materials such as Kevlar – yes, like the bulletproof vests.

On wet road surfaces, slick road tyres can also make staying upright tricky – even for experienced cyclists. To provide extra grip and reduce the chance of an accident on the road, winter tyres are available. These wider, treaded alternatives to slick tyres are better at dispersing water and increasing traction.

What you should be looking for:

-          Tread to increase grip and disperse water

-          Durability and puncture resistance

-          Minimal compromise on rolling speed

Our hot pick: Schwalbe Durano

The dreaded tool kit

You don’t need to become an expert in all things “bike mechanics”, but having a basic knowledge of maintenance can help you avoid the hassle and expense of carting your pride and joy down to the local workshop.

Once you’ve clued yourself up on the basics, the next stop is getting a kit worth its salt. There are all sorts of toolkits on the market but there are a few essential items you’ll always want to keep close at hand to help you mend your machine after a little rough and tumble.

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What you should be looking for:

-          Selection of Allen keys

-          Tyre levers

-          Pedal spanners

-          Tensioners

-          Cassette tools

Our hot pick: X-Tools bike tool kit

The essential cycling jacket

The North of England can be cold and wet – there’s no getting around that. But having an effective first line of defence against the elements can make all the difference. With hundreds of jackets to choose from for every weather condition, this one can be a bit of a minefield. But there are several features you should pay close attention to

What you should be looking for:

-          Breathability

-          Rain protection

-          Features – such as pockets and hoods

Our Hot Pick: DHB Minima S

 

Winn Solicitors is the UK’s leading accident management company. If you’ve had a non-fault cycling accident in the last 3 years call today on 0800 988 6288.

Northumberland offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK. National Parks, designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an abundance of beaches and a selection of ancient ruins and landmarks that make it the perfect place to unleash your Active Spirit._DSC5072a

Add to that the fantastic hospitality of the local population in the villages and towns in the county, and it’s no wonder that thousands of tourists – from both home and abroad – visit the region every year. Whether it’s a hike up to Hadrian’s Wall or boat trip out to Holy Island, the stunning scenery of the North East is hard to beat.

One of the best ways to see the countryside is undoubtedly the humble bicycle. The North East is a hotbed for National Cycle Network routes that make it easier to get about. Take the Coast and Castles route, for example, a delightful 200-mile voyage from Newcastle all the way across the Scottish border to Edinburgh with the North Sea on one side and high moorland on the other.

But if you’re heading out into the great outdoors to experience these wonders of the North East world, it’s important that you stay safe. Cycling is a fantastic way to see the world and keep fit to boot, but failing to take the right precautions while out on two wheels can result in a day to remember for the wrong reasons, rather than the right ones.

Here are a few top cycling safety tips to consider:

Wear a helmet

Gone are the days when bike helmets were considered uncool and unnecessary. Nowadays, they are as common amongst professional riders as they are Sunday amateurs. Bike helmet can help protect against brain injury in the event of a cycle accident, which is why you should always consider wearing one – particularly if journeying on narrow country roads littered with blind corners.

Wear bright clotheswandee007

Everybody knows how important it is to use lights and wear reflective clothing in the dark. But as a less visible road user, you should consider wearing bright clothes, reflective gear and even use lights during the day, too. As a smaller, vulnerable road user it is important to draw attention to your presence on any public highway to reduce the chance of another road user failing to see you.

Stay more central on narrow, rural roads

Gutters tend to be rougher and littered with potholes where adjoining grass verges on rural roads. Hitting one of these potholes or sliding on the uneven road surface can result in a loss of control and a potential accident involving other passing traffic. On these types of road, keep further from the gutter and choose safer ground closer to the centre of the lane.

Follow the Highway Code

It doesn’t matter whether you are on two wheels or four, you should obey the Highway Code at all times. That includes obeying road signs such as traffic lights, STOP and Give Way signs, and avoiding pavement riding.

Keep your bike roadworthykhunaspix

Performing basic maintenance work such as checking tyre pressure, oiling the chain, testing the brakes and ensuring the correct riding position are all important to staying safe and avoiding a road traffic accident. Mechanical faults are a common cause of cycling accidents, so take the time to check your cycle before embarking on any journey. And you wouldn’t want to break down miles from home anyway, would you?

Don’t get distracted

Enjoying the stunning scenery of Northumberland is a joy. But always remember to keep your eyes on the road when cycling – getting distracted, even for a moment, can prevent you from seeing a hazard in the road ahead.

If you are unfortunate enough to have been involved in an accident on the road in the UK, contact Winn Solicitors to access the nation’s leading accident management service.

Puffins have started to return to their breeding grounds on the Farne Islands two weeks early thanks to the milder spring temperatures.

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The National Trust, who look after the Farne Islands, have reported sightings of over 500 puffins on the islands just yesterday (Wednesday 12 March). It is thought this could be one of the earliest sightings on record by the national conservation charity.

David Steel, Lead Ranger for the National Trust on the Farne Islands told us:

“It is unusual to see puffins returning to Farne waters so quickly. In in a normal given-year, we would not expect to see them until the last few days of March at the earliest. This is in complete contrast to the previous season where birds did not start returning until early April. It is now hoped that this mild spell of weather will be a sign of things to come and the puffins and other seabirds of the Farne islands have a successful year. The Farne Islands are open for visitors on the 1st April and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors once again.”

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The Farne Islands are home to 40,000 pairs of puffins during spring and summer. To keep up to date with puffin news and signs of spring with the National Trust in the North East like their Facebook page.

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