Sunday, 28 July 2013

Birchover and Black Rocks Revisit

Greetings, Blog Fans.  Due to some scheduled appointments on Saturday, Sunday was our day to play.  The weather forecast was a little iffy but generally okay.  I have a couple of new walks in the hopper but both are around 8 miles and an hour + away so we thought we'd save those for another day.  For this day we were looking for something a little closer and shorter so we decided on a repeat (gasp!) of Birchover/Stanton Moor and Black Rocks.  We last did these 2 years ago (link).

Short entry this week -- some may be happy to know!

These fit the bill.  The Birchover walk (B) was about 35 minutes away and Black Rocks (C) was even less.   3.2 miles in 1:49 for the first (a casual stroll) and 2.4 miles in 1:14 for the second.  Each had about 300' climb early in the walk and were fairly easy by our current standards.  Temps were around 20C (high 60s) and the rain held off for the first walk but not the second.

We parked in Birchover and headed to the path.  It was a nice time for wild flowers.

 requisite big ole slug


Alex had a half-hearted attempt at the cork stone -- he didn't make it up this time

not quite the views we've had on some of our better walks but it was still nice to get out

 ah, slug competition -- he's a little furrier

the "famous" Nine Ladies -- legend has it they were dancing on Sunday and turned to stone (we had expected something on a slightly grander scale last time -- obviously we knew what to expect this time)

Schetzel / Peters inspired jumping scene

 another view into the valley

 into the jungle!

 and wildflowers

 . . . and another

apalcas (and donkeys) near a campground above Birchover

We had our picnic in Birchover as there are some convenient tables there.  We then hopped in the car and drove back to Black Rocks.  When attempting this 2 years ago, we bailed out on the walk and just climbed the rocks (Alex was a stinker if I recall).  We added the walk this time but unfortunately it started raining when we got there.  As a result we bypassed the rocks and went for the trail hoping to catch the rain-free rocks at the end.

Back to my normal level of preparedness for this one.  Despite the warm weather we had our rain jackets and overtrousers.

A good portion of this walk had a jungle feel -- very different than our normal Peak District affairs.  Lots of ferns, trees and eventually flowers in the fields.

flowers here -- you can see the big water droplet on my camera at the bottom.  Looks like there used to be more trees here but a fire cleared them out (some time ago)

and the Black Rocks -- unfortunately Kuk and Alex had had enough by this point so once again, I couldn't get the whole family up there.  Since Nicole and I had been before, we bailed as well.

So, nothing too exciting but a nice little day out.  Always good to stretch the legs, get a little fresh air and snap a few photos for the blog.

Have a good week everyone.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Zookeepers for the Day at Blackbrook Zoo

Hello, Blog Fans.  We had a unique experience this week.  No long walks.  No history to learn.  Just a nice day with some animals.

Prior to Christmas, I purchased a Groupon for each kid to be a zookeeper for the day at Blackbrook Zoo.  Blackbrook is a smallish, family run zoo on the southern edge of the Peak District (see map below).  They specialize in birds but have a few mammals as well.  Nothing big like lions, bears, elephants, etc. but still a nice little zoo.

The experience lasts from 10:30 to 3:30 and the kids are left with the zookeepers for that time.  During the morning they do some prep and feed a few animals.  We met back for lunch and then in the afternoon they watched a video and then did the public feedings of the pelicans, penguins and meerkats.  Since the latter feedings were public we got to see them for this.

For the morning, Kuk and I had a nice stroll through the zoo ourselves and it was nice to spend some time together.

For the last 2 weeks (one of which we were gone), the weather here has been unbelievably fantastic.  Blue skies, sunshine and temps in the upper 20s (low 80's F).  In fact, it's been downright hot given that we don't have A/C in the house.  It still cools down at night so its still nice.

Funny enough, the weekend has cooled back down to normal and the greyish skies have returned as well.

Blackbrook is between Ashbourne and Leek about 35 minutes away.

So off to see the zoo with Kuk while the kids were getting trained up:

 Purple Glossy Starling -- the green is a reflection unfortunately.

 flamingos -- Nicole learned that the dry food portion of their diet has pink dye in it to help the color.

 kookaburra through the fence

one of several peacocks roaming around

 huge stork

 Ah, something different than a bird.  Just a pig though.

 crown crane-- liked the hairdo

 unfortunately I didn't get a good photo of this cassowary -- these are some mean birds (link)

here's what they look like (from the web)

 some baby bird butts

we didn't realize just how big these pelicans are -- we'd be back at feeding time

 meerkat chilling

 nice one of Kuk -- she likes her flowers

 albino chipmunk


 feeding time (kids didn't help with this one) -- the glare is annoying unfortunately

 the baby sure was cute

 we had fun watching this guy eat -- he's working on a persimmon (sharon fruit)

 anyone?  don't remember the name of this one

 just guineas but they are cute

 hard to imagine this guy will ever grow into his feet

 meerkat pretending to be a vulture like Snoopy

 Patagonian Mara

Ok.  The kids are back.  It's time to feed the pelicans some fish.  Alex tossing some here.

 and Nicole

 and another -- look at the size of that beak and gullet

 Nicole and her handful of fish

Alex having fun

 crane on the way to the penguins

 Humbolt penguins

the kids being led to the penguin area and the penguins following closely in anticipation

more fish to toss -- Nicole mentioned that some of the prep work was to stuff the fish with salt since the penguins are living in fresh water instead of salt water

over to the meerkats -- there was a litter of 5 young ones altogether (w/ 4 adults)

hmm -- very young baby chicks -- Nicole with a head

 Alex feeding the chick to the meerkat

Nicole waiting in anticpation

I had pretty low expectations when arriving.  It was definitely a mom-n-pop, low budget affair.  However, Kuk and I enjoyed our quiet stroll through the zoo and the kids definitely had a fun day getting to feed the animals (they did smell like fish for awhile though).

crazy Alex showing off his blue icee tongue

Summer is here (school is over) and I mentioned that the weather has been great.  Alex really enjoys playing with the neighborhood boys.  I think it is going to be hard from him to leave when the time comes.  They really have a good time together and seem to get along reasonably well given the spread in ages (and the normal brotherly interactions).  He runs outside as soon as he gets home and they seem to be waiting for him as well.  I caught a few photos of the gang in action this week from our study window.

last weekend was hot enough to have a water fight

cricket in the drive -- he definitely won't be doing that back in the US

Have a good week everyone.