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Monday, 27 February 2012

The Fickle Spindle of Fate

There was a "Spinning Day" at the local woolstore;
"A Fine Yarn" in Skinnergate in Darlington. Christine provided space and scones and copious cuppas and we sat surrounded by gorgeous yarns.

It was for beginners. Having had a spinning wheel for forty years, I probably cannot claim to be a beginner but I often still feel like one because I'm mainly self taught and not well taught. So I signed up.

I took my Ashford and basket of gear and greeted a shopful of jolly women.

We started by learning how to use a drop spindle. I've had one for years and it has never been successfully used. The diagrams in the books I have make it look simple but don't tell you how many times you will drop it before you develop some sort of rhythm.

So after decades of trying....success at last.

The next sucess was learning to use a pair of hand carders to make a rolag. This process turns raw fleece into lofty(air-filled) rolls of spinnable fleece very quickly. I have previously used a dog comb or a flick carder and these only do small swatches at a time. The hand carders do much larger amounts.

And here I am spinning some I made earlier.

Veronica, the teacher for the day ( did a comprehensive coverage of getting started. It would have been a bit better if there had been more wheels to go round. I had a go on mine while she watched and showed me where I had been going wrong with the tension for absolutely ages and then I lent mine out to the real beginners. An Ashford is a good starting wheel but spinning is not as easy as it looks and you need to make sure you want to go on before you invest in a wheel.

Of course the trouble is that this has awoken the butterfly in me and I fear I shall now need to spin for a while and foresake the painting!

Tigger has been a bit slack about going out in the bad weather, but the mild patch must have brought on a hunting urge and she laid the trophy out neatly by her food bowl this moring. A very large rodent! probably starting with R.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The OK Bus is OK with Me

The OK Buses are OK with me!!!
A couple of weeks ago the OK Expressway buslines started a new express from Crook to Darlington. They promised it would run every half hour. It does, and it does so from the bus stop at the end of our road! It is no longer worth taking the car into Darlo.
Our bus passes are truly magic. They save us £6.00 in fuel, and a couple of quid for parking near Tkmaxx. We love the freedom of them and the great variety the local bus station offers.

Arriva have set up another run. The X1 also goes from the end of the road and all the way to Darlington and the journey is a few minutes shorter.
We took the X1 home the other day and went along the A6072 instead of the A68. We don't really mind which bus we take. The couple of minute's difference is not important, but I think I shall go with the OK bus. So far the drivers have been much jollier and glad to see you.

Other buses from the Bishop Bus Station go to Sunderland and to Newcastle, like this one. They also go every half hour but the journey is long because the bus stops at every stop.
But free rides around the country are wonderful.
We can go to all the places mentioned and all the villages nearby and to Durham and other stuff.

You can get off the Newcastle bus at the top of the hill near THE ANGEL . We shall do that next time.

I've had some tonsilitis and a bout of bronchial infection which has laid me low for a while but I'm better now and riding the buses again.

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Bits Of Green Between The Winter Colours

We visited the New Forest a couple of weeks ago, to see the oldest oak in England. Or the oldest oak in the New Forest. Or the oldest oak I've ever seen. One of those will be correct.
It was a grand old growth and still alive and carefully looked after.

But the younger trees in the pic below are closer to home and were only planted at the start of the railway era (1830s). They are on a wide bridge over the old railway path from Bishop Auckland to known as the Auckland Way and turned into a footpath and bike path.

The Bishop of the time didn't want to see the smoke or soot of the trains and ordered a bridge to be built, wide and deep enough to grow trees to hide the track below. These trees are still growing.

Further into Auckland Park, which the Bishop's carriage would cross on his way to his palace at Bishop Auckland, were ancient meadows for grazing and trees which sheltered the deer. These strange lumps on the old meadows are the remains of ancient ant hills.

These brown lumps are much more modern and show the previous night's efforts of Mr. Mole and his family!

We are now cloaked in a thin but chill layer of white as the snow settles in around us.

Hope the weather is fine where you are.

Cheers Gillian

Friday, 3 February 2012


We went for a ride on the Transporter Bridge over the Tees and then northwards past all the industrial area of oil refineries and power stations. It is called Seal Sands and the inlets and mud flats are a nature reserve for birds and seals.
This is the first time I've seen them in England. They were sunbathing on the mud just a few metres from the road side.

I shall return in a couple of months for birthing and breeding season and hope to get pics of a few babies.
There is a great birdwatching hide at Saltholme which merits a visit too.
This area is south of Seaton Carew, which is one of our favourite hangouts so we shall now drive in from the south and get to know the tidal area of the Tees so that we can track down the wildlife.
Cheers Gillian