My Blog List

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Before you start, you need to get some Tunisian Dinars and these are only available in Tunisia. The going rate is about 2 Dt to the 1GBP so exchange rate sums are quite easy. The products are very cheap and haggling successfully makes them even more so.
I found a great woolshop in the Medina in Tunis. This was a "prix fixee" shop. The bloke sold wool, mohair and mixed yarns by the cone, skein and hank and I bought five hanks of finely spun, undyed lambswool for 9Dt. I shall see how it winds and knits up and then tell you more about it.

Outside the souks, the locals shop and haggle in small markets and by the side of the road. This was a ute full of fresh peas and artichokes and the man was doing a roaring trade in the main street in Hammamet

But, unfortunately for the orange seller just a couple of meters away, the police arrived and caught him unawares. The uniformed officer wrestled with the seller for his scales but it took the brute force of a plain clothes assistant to wrench them away and toss them into the police car. He also helped himself to a bunch of artichokes while the argument continued and the summons was being written out on the bonnet of the police car,

I'm the sticky beak passing by on the left with the white bag. It was a few minutes of almost vaudevillian farce until the chastened traders drove no more than ten metres up the road and started again. I'm not sure how the orange seller managed without his scales but people were still stopping to buy from him. We found half a dinar on the road where he had been parked and passed it on to the next beggar we saw thereby enabling the orange seller to fulfil his obligation to help those less fortunate than himself!

A shopping trip in Tunisia would not be complete without someone trying to sell you a carpet or three. We walked along the beach from our hotel to the Medina in Hammamet and passed a fishing boat and a group of men cutting up and sharing out a few cuttlefish. "Hello" said one"Do you remember me?" We looked baffled but he explained that he was the crepe-chef from the hotel and of course we didn't recognise him without his chef's hat. He walked along chatting to us and flattering us by remembering us. He explained how lucky we were to be visiting the Medina this day because it was one of only two days a month when the Berber rug-knotter was in town giving demonstrations at the Government Rug Shop where only genuine Berber rugs were to be had. It was our lucky day. He took us there. He walked fast through the winding streets and alleyways of the Medina, but we kept up.
We were introduced to the Berber woman, who so cleverly made the rugs and invited to sit beside her for a picture which I declined because I did not want to distract her from her work. Joseph, who was in charge of the shop, showed us the beautiful rugs, explained how easy it was to have them sent home and then took us upstairs to sit down, have tea, and BUY RUGS!!!
The light dawned. "No Thankyou" we said, explained that we were only sight-seeing and left.

We eventually found our way out of the Medina but as we negotiated the way back along the unfamiliar paths, two more Tunisians approached us and said "Hello, do you remember me? I'm a chef/waiter at your hotel but of course you don't recognise me on my day off!"
Later we kicked ourselves for being so naive. For a start, neither of us had ever been near the crepe preparation area in the dining room, the Berber rug-maker indicated that she would like a tip, the walk to the shop was too fast for us to stop and question what was happening, we were flattered by the attention etc.
If you have any money left at the end of your holiday you can only exchange your Dinars while you are still in Tunisia. Please be very careful at Monastir Airport official exchange bank. The man is very bad at arithmetic even with the aid of more than one calculator! He managed to be 20GBPs short in his first attempt to turn our Dinars into Pounds.
The weather was fine, the food was wonderful, most of the people were delightful and there is much more to tell you. We would definitely go again.
I'm off to wind the wool and knit a test patch or two.
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I have walked with the County Durham Guided Walks groups for many months now and have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have also done walks with English Heritage and AONB (areas of outstanding natural beauty) too and they are really great. The new CDGW guide should be out soon to cover the summer months.
Much as I would like you all to turn up and enjoy what I do, there is a feeling about that says "Don't tell everyone!!!" We like it the way it is and don't want hordes of visitors.

This is the Hury Reservoir which is part of a set of five reservoirs in the Lunedale and Baldersdale Valleys. We walked the ten mile tour of most of them and enjoyed the views and the majesty of the Victorian engineering.
About halfway around the walk we stopped at Hannah's Barn. This is the protected barn at the top of Hannah's Meadow. Hannah Hauxwell's story is well documented in various books and TV shows (try Apparently Hannah now lives in the village of Cotherstone and doesn't have to toil every day.

We don't have a uniform even though it seems that red tops and blue bottoms are needed for this pic. People are having some respite from the hefty hike outside Hannah's Barn. There were still a few miles to go.
I have been to visit my sister a couple of times this weekend. At first she was quite chipper but then they took the epidural out and she started to feel pain and nausea. I can't get to see her again because I'm off to Tunisia/Carthage tomorrow. Hopefully things will improve for her and I will visit again on my return.
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 8 March 2009


The washing machine is going, as once again I transfer large quantities of mud from the "footpaths" of County Durham to the sewerage system. I will need some of the gear for another assault on high and muddy bits of moorland on Wednesday. Today the group (Durham County Council Guided Walks) were led by a popular leader and two stewards around Muggleswick and up to the Three Curricks.

Here they are and you can see them clearly because the blizzard cleared and disappeared as quickly as it came and I was able to take my gloves off and get the camera out of the back-pack.
They are three cairns and no-one is really sure why they are there and why they are so named. Suggestions include something to do with shepherd shelters and/or witches. Or that might have been the Muggleswick Plot. I wasn't listening too well in the blizzard.

When I woke this morning the sky was blue, there was a light breeze, no frost on the ground and the sun shone. That encouraged me to get up, dress in outdoor gear, pack a picnic and check the map for the meeting place. The weather report for the day was not good but I decided to chance it.

The first snow attack happened as I drove to Muggleswick, the second as I parked and put on my all-weather gear, the third as we climbed to the top, the fourth at the top and on the way down we were treated to two hail storms. It was all short lived and the above picture shows the snow resting in the heather. The heather has been burnt in patches by the Game Keepers. Grouse like fresh shoots to feed on and old heather to hide in. We startled many into flight but they were too quick for me to catch on film.
Many of them will be shot by "sportsmen" from these grouse butts which dot the moorlands. They are cultivated and nurtured for this. The heather is maintained to provide for them and piles of grit are left at white pole markers for them to ingest and assist in their digestion so that they thrive...for a while!

The view from the top was marvellous and the weather cleared at just the right time to catch sight of the Derwent Reservoir, Newcastle and the Hown's Gill Viaduct. Here's the reservoir.

I hope the hens and sheep can read.

Cheers Gillian

Friday, 6 March 2009


The weather was wonderful for a walk around the Durham coast today. This is a picture of the clouds imitating the pattern of the trees at Hawthorn Tower. This once fine house no longer exists but the area of Hawthorn Dene still encompasses ancient woodlands, dells, wild flowers and grasslands. There were sweeps of snowdrops, sadly on their last legs but also cyclamens, hellebores and daffodils pushing through. The Magnesian limestone, which is so predominant at the surface in Eastern County Durham has always been valuable as a road metal and as a refactory lining for furnaces so it has left many quarries. This is the Hawthorn Quarry. Fortunately it also provides wonderful habitat for wild orchids.
We followed this track which was, in the old days, the major road north. Cromwellian troops marched this way. We saw no troops but as we munched our picnic lunches, a fox fled from a copse, in full flight, and with its tail flying out the back like a banner. The twenty of us were taking one dog for a walk but it nearly broke away from its lead in its efforts to chase the fox and cried pitifully when held back from its quarry. It was a greyhound!

This is a picture of Dalden Tower in Dalton-le-Dale. It was once a pele tower and is surrounded by a lovely parkland. I remembered this area as much more rugged when I was younger. It has all been tidied up a lot but sadly that means that the nightingale has probably moved on. When I was a younger it was common to come and sit here at night and listen to it.

Today's walk started at Seaham Harbour. This small town on the Durham coast holds a special place in my heart. As children we often visited the place and even swam in the North Sea off the coal-dusted beach. We always needed washing when we got home to Granny's because our legs were black from the fine coal-dusted sand that made up all the beaches in the area. The Featherbed Rocks have been nearly washed away and the sand is now golden and the beachfront is "improved" very nicely.
This picture shows the old and new harbour walls and the small building in the centre of the picture is the old Harbour Master's Office where I spent a couple of weeks in the summer of
1968 gathering data for the writing of my Third Year Dissertation. I enjoyed a trip in the Pilot's boat but declined the offer of a "DIVE" in an old diving suit with lead-weighted boots, a screw on helmet and a tube to the surface which supplied air!!! I regret that now. Gosh, fancy saying No to such an experience. Something they mentioned about the enormous eels down at the stuck dock gates might have influenced my decision. I remember it all so happily.

Cheers Gillian


OK, so here they are! I did see the first lamb a couple of weeks ago, and these are the twenty first but at last I had my camera with me at the right time. I spent last week at my sister's and she reminded me that we had seen the earliest lambs while she was visiting me "oop north" last year, and so I returned to Alwent's farm just outside Staindrop and was greeted by a field full of these. Most ewes seemed to have had twins and the bleating and baa-ing was quite a cacophony.While I was visiting my sister, I spent some time at the window with my camera poised while I waited for the black squirrels to appear. They move too fast and this is the best of my efforts. I have seen many of these black squirrels whilst in Canada and apparently they were brought to a park in England and have escaped and dominated the small areas where they are found. So the grey squirrel is wiping out the red squirrel and now the black squirrel is winning the game.

I also had time to check out DUNE the corn snake. He is a big boy now and at least five feet in length. I am OK with snakes and gave him fresh water and tickled him a bit (through the glass!).
He was only a few inches long a few years ago! He did not need feeding while I was there because snakes only need about one mouse a week. They do so little activity that their metabolic rate is very low. This snake needs a couple of large volumes parked on the lid of his home to stop him lifting the roof when he gets anxious for a look-see.

I've been out and about today but will save that for a separate blog entry.

Cheers to all