These 30 Days Wild can take you on adventures large and small.
At the weekend I met up with No1 Daughter and two of my granddaughters, Peanut and Goggins (formerly known as Shrub), in the bustling old Yorkshire market town of Skipton. On the way Jubilee bunting was everywhere. Not surprisingly Carnforth had put on a good show.
And when I got to Skipton, Holy Trinity Church was bedecked with beautiful floral decorations. Whoever created these displays is truly talented.
All gorgeous and cheerful but not really wild I know. Our wild experience for Saturday was a walk through Skipton Castle Wood. There are a few walks through the wood but as we had Goggins in the buggy we opted for an easier one.
Skipton Castle Wood is leased to the Woodland Trust and it is a super alternative to busy Skipton market, although the market is another good reason to visit the town! We started the walk from the saw-mill entrance. There are some narrow stretches and a few stairs that would make it tricky unless you had help with the buggy and makes it impossible by wheelchair. However there are alternative entrances that are suitable.
For the first part of the walk Skipton Castle looms above you. No doubt to remind us of our place.
The girls really enjoyed the walk. Goggins thought it was a hoot especially when big sister Peanut put flowers in her hair.
Peanut also joined in the archery!
We had a lovely day full of lots of laughter. A superb Wild Day.
Back home the wildness has not stopped it has just shrunk in scope. I am enjoying the little things like listening for birdsong and seeing what is growing along the unkempt verges en route home from work.
Today I was based in my home office and when I popped out to empty my veg peelings into my compost I couldn’t believe the sound of buzzing that was coming from the mock orange hedge that surrounds my compost bin. When I stepped back it was alive with bumblebees – at a quick count I saw over 20 – collecting nectar along with a couple of butterflies who had come along to join the party.
I tried to snap pictures of the bees but it is a bit like “Where’s Wally”, can you see the bees? They were there, honest.
Shows you don’t have to go far to have a wild encounter. I am so pleased that this beautiful shrub is supporting so many pollinators. It was a wonderful thing to see and hear.
Hope you are enjoying your own mini wild adventures.
Here in the UK we are enjoying two days of public holidays and a weekend for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is wonderful to see so many people out and about enjoying the celebrations but we all need to send a BIG THANKS to the folk who continue to work and make this holiday safe – e.g. in the emergency services – and fun – e.g. those in hospitality and shops. Special thanks to all the supermarket staff who will be busy on checkouts and re-stocking shelves – how else would the street party goers get their victuals?!
But let us go back a wee bit. Last weekend saw me on the X6 Stagecoach bus from Kendal to Barrow to meet up with friend MB for a walk to visit The Port of Barrow. As I alighted at the magnificent town hall, the sun was as you can see in my eyes and it gave a really eerie backdrop to the gothic building.
I toddled on across the deserted car park to find MB – something of a relief as I was beginning to think I had skipped into a zombie apocalypse. After a hearty breakfast, with my over zealous imagination put back into its secured corner of my brain, we set off to walk through the wild industrial sea line around the Port of Barrow.
Barrow is a special place for it’s mix of working industrial butted up to amazing wild places. There is nothing quaint nor gentrified here and that’s why I love it. Barrow is just as it is.
We were surrounded by water much of the time.
As you walk along the causeway towards Roa Island you have the tidal waters to your right and the old Cavendish Dock on your left. Aeronautical history was made here: the dock saw the first British sea plane (the Aero Type D prototype if you are interested) take off in 1911; and the construction of the ill-fated (it snapped in two!) Mayfly, Britain’s first rigid airship.
The waters still reveal glimpses of the past with tangled pieces of metal jutting from the waters as the tides turn to reveal the sites of old jetties. Even on land there are remnants of our recent military past.
You could just about wade through the discarded cans and other detritus (I don’t want to think what this was) of the first Pillbox air raid shelter to catch a glimpse of Piel Island in the distance through the embrasure (fancy word for hole in wall). We took the advice of the graffitied scrawl on the second and gave internal exploration a miss.
It was an amazing walk with so much history. Thank you MB for being a font of knowledge. I definitely want to re-walk this little piece of Barrow or even better cycle it as I have barely touched on some of the intriguing tales this landscape has to offer. As Arnie would say ‘I’ll be back!’.
The 1st June saw the start of ‘30 Days Wild’ an annual celebration of nature run by Wildlife Trusts all around the country. Sadly our Barrow walk was just outside the month of June but nonetheless I have got off to a flying start by …. drum roll please … having my lunch in the beautiful wildlife garden of Cumbria Wildlife Trust at Plumgarths, near Kendal. Isn’t it a joy that nature can be visited in surroundings to suit everyone wherever they live and work? There is somewhere for each of us: be it high fell climbs or cliff walks or sitting quietly in a local park, garden or wildflower meadow.
I just love the living willow fencing. It is beautiful.
Yesterday the sun came out and I spent a happy morning pottering about in my own slightly chaotic garden, enjoying planting the super plants that cousin PF brought over (thank you!) and doing a little judicious snipping and dead heading.
Lucky I got out there when I did as the heavens opened later and today is off to a wet start. Can’t grumble as everything got a good watering. But what about Day 3 you ask? Today I am drawing and sewing bears. Variety as they say is the spice of life!
I hope all is well with your day. Off now to fire up my trusty sewing machine, Jolly Janome. I will be back soon with more 30 Days Wild mini adventures.
It was perfect weather for me and friend JG to carry on the project to visit Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport and Shanks’ Pony. And on our visit to South Walney yesterday Shanks’ Pony was certainly key!
We started with the 7am X6 Stagecoach bus from Kendal Bus Station (I snuck on a couple of stops later) our first and longest bus journey of the day. It took 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Barrow Town Hall. This used to be my daily journey to work, believe me I was having flashbacks, no surprise that back in those days I finished many a sock, glove and a particularly important baby blanket on my commute to and from the office!
Once at Barrow we crossed over the road and hopped on our next bus, the number 1 to Biggar Bank. We got off at Biggar Bank Biggar Garth (Carr Lane) and then the walking began. As always in this neck of the woods people were tremendously friendly and helpful. I have always loved this about the people of Barrow and Walney. Spotting our walking boots a passerby immediately warned us of flooding on one of the routes to South Walney and pointed us in the safest direction and wished us a good walk.
Off we set to a magical reserve of eerie but beautiful magnitude, home to rare and wonderful wildlife, wide majestic seascapes and the whisper of Piel Castle on nearby Piel Island (if you squint you can just see it).
We thought we had a three mile walk to the reserve but it soon became obvious that we had a little-ways further to go, 5 miles infact. JG has a gizmo that measures such things as well as creating maps of our route.
Cool, eh? The road ahead was flat but there were quite a few vehicles and the occasional horse. At least the cars were slowed by travelling through Biggar village which gave me a break from leaping on to the verges.
Not yet March but I saw my first lamb – looked very young – as we tootled on our way.
Must be hardy sheep here on Walney. We had arrived on a good day but it is known locally as ‘Windy Walney’ because of the ferocious winds that whip in from the Irish Sea. Walney Island is certainly a place that is open to the elements. Interestingly we spotted a Barn Owl on the way (sorry but I am as slow a photographer as I am walker) clutching it’s breakfast. We learned later that they are stalking in daylight because the recent heavy rains have limited their hunting. Wonderful to see this beautiful bird (not such a welcome sight for its prey).
As the ‘three’ miles stretched out we saw hopeful signs that we were nearing the reserve.
We arrived to be greeted by two kind and friendly volunteers and shown into the cabin where we were offered a hot drink and could have a look at the artefacts and information about the reserve. There is a car park at South Walney so you do not have to walk there and yahoo there is also a toilet!!!!
With my feet holding up reasonably well at this point and JG being a keen walker we opted for the Red Route (3 miles) which covers the whole reserve. There are also the Blue Route (2 miles) and Yellow Route (1 mile). The signage was brilliant and the colour coded posts kept us to the path – this is vitally important to the birds and other wildlife that breed here.
You really feel you are getting the best brine filled fresh air and I still have a healthy glow – i.e. I am red – from the light wind and sun. There were useful information boards to read. I had not realised that there is a working oyster farm on the island, and definitely did not know that the oysters go on little excursions around Morecambe Bay.
The sea is ever present. Cumbria’s only grey seal colony resides on South Walney’s beaches. They can be watched from the hides or from the comfort of your own home via the Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s seal web-cam. Amazing to see. We didn’t manage to glimpse the seals (I really must get some binoculars!) but the views were tremendous.
Several hides pepper the reserve affording shelter and great views of the landscapes and the wildlife. We utilised a couple to watch the wild world go by while enjoying a cuppa and our packed lunches. Happy days.
South Walney is also home to some precious dunescape habitats which are vital living spaces for many species including common lizards and other sand-loving creatures. Dunes should have areas of exposed sand but troublingly they are increasingly being covered by vegetation that drives out the usual sand dune wildlife. I learned dunes are the most threatened habitat in Europe for biodiversity loss. Thankfully at South Walney Cumbria Wildlife Trust have embarked on a project to restore the fixed dunes and are creating and improving the dune ponds.
For our last little lap of the reserve we walked along the newly installed boardwalk, admiring the views and also the fun hide with all it’s peep holes.
With a long walk back to the bus stop (my feet were twinging) it was time to leave but we grabbed a quick chat with the fabulous, friendly volunteers and the South Walney reserve officer, Jake. They were all so knowledgeable and we learned a lot from meeting them. What a super way to end our visit. Thanks Team South Walney.
With spirits still high from our visit to the reserve and spotting what we thought were a curlew and a little egret en route we set off on the walk back to Biggar Bank. Sadly for me it was soon obvious that my poor old feet were suffering and I confess quite a bit of this journey was jolly painful, a bit like walking on sharp red-hot needles.
My comfortable walking distance is around 6 miles and my absolute maximum was 8 miles. On this excursion I had thought I would push that up to 9 miles but when JG’s machine had done it’s calculations we had actually walked …. drum roll please … 13.2 miles. Oh my aching feet. Once I had taken my boots off, peeled off my socks (I thought a bit of my feet would come with them, I was not far wrong) I could see the full horror wrought to my tootsies. OOOOOUCH! All my own fault for not checking the distances more carefully.
Luckily super walker JG was fine, for her this was one of her longer training walks but nothing out of the ordinary. I am now carefully teetering around the house with feet that would not be out of place in ‘The Mummy’ they are so well strapped up with plasters.
None of this sullied the day. South Walney is exceptional and I would recommend a visit without hesitation. But if you want to bus it be prepared for a very long walk to and from the reserve.
What a beautiful day it has been. The weather here in Cumbria was crisp but dry and clear. The early morning sun gave the view from my office window a rosy hue.
As the day went on and the weather held I looked forward to my homeward walk. Even tho’ almost a mile of it is along ‘The Verge’!
I enjoyed the wonderful views to my right
The light was glorious. I could almost forget the cars whizzing along the road next to me. But you know Kendal there is always a hill to climb, and here is the slowest but longest I encounter on my way back.
Just think of the calories… pufff … the strength and stamina building … oxygen please!
Oh the joy of those downhill horizons with home in sight.
Journey complete it was great to see my veg box had arrived. Now it is kettle on and recipe books out for things to make with those fantastic veggies.
Have a good evening and if you have super weather like us at the moment I hope you have chance to enjoy it.
I hope your New Year is getting off to a good start. For me it is back to the normal run of things. This no criticism it is the mundane that allows some occasions to be cherished as special and there is also comfort to be had in the routine. I am happy to be ‘bored’ it gives me chance to reflect, look ahead or just switch off.
Off course not all reflections are helpful. Yesterday as I toddled into town to get some chores done I pondered: how come I am Cumbrian yet I hate walking up hills? Who said that?! I will have you know I am r-e-l-a-t-i-v-e-l-y fit and only just on the cuddly side.
My walk starts with a short uphill section, puff wheeze:
Followed by a quick stroll across a field with a long (dare I say it dull) walk UP the next road …. can….n’t….sp…ea…ck …gasp:
Obviously to my Cumbrian kith and kin I don’t know a steep road when I climb one:
Anyhoo after pondering the imponderable (you at the back again! I said ‘cuddly’), and feeling much warmer than when I set off, I arrived in town. Food shopping out of the way I wended my way to my favourite store, Reticule.
I am about to embark on a new quilt which I am sewing for granddaughter Peanut for … wait for it … next Christmas! Do I get a prize for being the first person you know to mention the C word this year?!
Peanut is the only one of my three granddaughters not to have a quilt. Here are Munchkin and Shrub’s:
I had not embraced my inner quilter when Peanut was born. I am making up for lost time. Peanut is a keen supporter of Animals Asia so I decided her quilt should be dedicated to bears. As there are 8 species of bear to which I can add a few sub-species I am going to create twelve panels each devoted to a different type of bear. Ursus Ianuarii is the polar bear.
I had made a small sketch:
I had then checked my fabric stash but came up with only one useful piece … erm dark grey/gray. But with this visit to Reticule, a chat with the super helpful owner Jane, I am polar bear fabric ready.
The loveliness of a walk into the ‘Auld grey (flippin’ heck not that word again!) town’ of Kendal – hills not withstanding – did not end there. Friend ACk had given me the gift of a book token for Christmas and it was burning a hole in my imagination, what new book would be joining the shelves, tables or other flat surfaces at Casa Moke?
Missing our independent bookshops though I am, it is still enjoyable to visit Waterstones (the UK’s ubiquitous seller of tomes) and browse their two floors of stock. Having cried at the beauty of Madeline Miller’s love story ‘Song of Achilles’ last year and loving Natalie Haynes BBC radio classical comedy ‘Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics’ I went for a Natalie Haynes’ novel “The Children of Jocasta” which was recommended by Madeline Miller. Win win.
Adding a 2022 diary to my purchases rounded off my sortie onto the high street. Bearing two bags of veg and other essentials I walked home to enjoy a relaxing read and contemplative updating of the new diary… but with arms at least a few inches longer, blast those hills!
While the Mexican Tinga (spicy lentil sauce) simmers on the hob I will relate a lovely day out walking with friend JG.
As you know we are attempting all the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport. Last time we visited Foulshaw Moss and today we went to visit Craggy Woods in Staveley by the 555 Stagecoach bus from Kendal.
Staveley is a friendly large village and behind it lies some beautiful native woodlands. I have recently sponsored three trees there – for my granddaughters – through Cumbria Wildlife Trust as part of a project extending Craggy Woods through some newly acquired land to join with Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood and create a larger Staveley Woodland. It is a rare opportunity and well thought through. If you want to join in the fun here is the link.
We started well by catching the 555 Stagecoach bus at our respective stops and after I got over the news that Craggy Woods is hilly (the clue I suppose is in the name) we arrived at the Wood.
Initially we walked up the road that skirted Craggy (it looked steep and muddy in there) and reached the top of the hill to look across the woodland. However we thought we were missing out on the full Craggy Wood experience so retraced our steps and went back to the gate. I think the map that JG created captured our rather strange back-and-forth route.
Through the gate we went and .. it was mud-gate meets fallen tree-gate! Storms Arwen and Barra had certainly wreaked havoc. Broken branches littered the paths and yesterday’s heavy rainfall added the hazard of slippy slidey mud. But as the book – ‘We Are Going On A Bear Hunt’ – says ‘We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We have to go through it’. And so through it we went. To me it looked like the battle of the Somme thankfully without the tragic loss of life, although there were times when I thought I might be a gone-r.
Friend JG is like a mountain goat so I knew we were in trouble when she was clutching tree stumps and grasping on to rocks as we made our way up, across and down. Thanks to all the fallen branches I managed to use one as a make-shift staff and steadied my wobbly self through the descent.
It did afford many a laugh (the hysterical sort) as we descended from the top of the wood and I am really glad we did it. Craggy Wood is beautiful even if damaged at present. Sadly none of my pictures captured the muddiness of our walk, but they do show some of the storm damage and the magnificent – if misty views – from the hilltop.
It also revealed some glorious moss and bracket fungi (possibly Birch Polypore … but I am no expert) who just seemed to scream ‘photo opportunity’.
We had a fabulous if slippery walk and it was good to see where the new saplings will be planted in 2022. I think we can say that we covered Craggy Wood. Satellites don’t lie.
Having walked down the last few steep fields while wishing we had sheep hooves we reached the River Kent and Barley Bridge. The river was in full spate and quite stunning.
We briefly sojourned in the pretty church of St James’s with it’s William Morris east window
before reaching the Elderado of any walk around Staveley, Wilf’s!
Wilf’s is famous among locals, it is a friend to cyclists and walkers and serves hearty fare. We felt we had earned our veggie burgers, mine with vegan ‘cheese’, and we tucked in with relish. Yummy. Perfect end to a perfect New Year’s eve. Thanks JG for being in charge of maps and statistics: we walked 3.62 miles with 520’ of elevation.
Happy New Year to all. I hope 2022 is a good one for you.
It is time for a new quest. Some of you may remember back in 2018 friend JG and I attempted to visit all the Herstory exhibitions held in the museums around Cumbria by public transport. Can’t remember? have a look here if you want a reminder. It was a great reason to travel around the county, we went to museums I had never visited before and learnt a lot about the women of this corner of north west England.
Now its edging into winter what do we decide to do? Go outdoors, ‘cos we are sensible sorts…, and start a new quest to visit all 37 of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves by public transport! Crickey, where are my thermals?!
there was a field opposite but now – one pandemic and many missed bus trips later – it has become an ‘executive’ housing estate.
Skimming over that – stop sobbing M! – as you can see the weather is glorious and I have a bus to look out for, the 11:08 am Stagecoach X6 Kendal to Barrow which should already have JG on board. She was there and ticket bought I settled down for the short hop to our stop next to the entrance to Foulshaw Moss nature reserve.
The Cumbria Wildlife Trust guidebook tells us why lowland raised mires like Foulshaw Moss are so important, they are one of Europe’s most threatened habitats. In the UK 94% of this habitat has been destroyed. To go to Foulshaw is to visit a rare landscape and feel thankful to see it being restored.
We were the only humans visiting the reserve but we were not alone. Although from my photography from the first ‘hide’ you would think we were!
Wait, who’s this little fellow?
Not sure what s\he is, answers on a postcard please. Sparrow? Reed bunting? But truly there were SO SO many birds. We saw all sorts including a couple of pheasants … or maybe corncrakes (you can tell our bird watching skills are honed, cough)… and a magnificent Great Spotted Woodpecker that settled briefly on a feeder. I am afraid my rendering of this bird in pencil and Biro does not do it justice.
We could have happily stayed in this ‘hide’ all day watching the comings and goings. It was hard to tear ourselves away but the moss called. And what a call it is when you start out along the boardwalks.
The moss is wet and small pools of water show that it is soaking up the water and keeping wet just as it should be. In addition to the surviving mire Cumbria Wildlife Trust are restoring the moss lands into the area that had been planted over with trees for the war effort back in the mid-twentieth century.
Thankfully nowadays there is a lot of talk about protecting and planting trees for their carbon capturing qualities but much less is said about the carbon munching qualities of mires like Foulshaw Moss. I have read that Cumbrian peatland stores five times as much carbon as all of Cumbria’s trees put together. This habitat not only sustains a myriad of amazing plant and wildlife it helps keep us alive too! Gotta love it.
One word of warning, The decay of the plant life – like the famous sphaghnum moss – is what creates peat. It is a slow process and it can take 1,000 years to create 1m of peat so please please use peat-free composts like Dalefoot wool composts (other brands are available) for your gardens.
The board walks make this a wonderful habitat for everyone to visit and enjoy. There is also a fantastically (deliberately) wobbly bridge that I know my granddaughters will love.
As we walked around the reserve it was so beautifully sunny and dare I say warm that we even saw a couple of common darter dragonflies. Yes you know it, they were here and gone before I had wrestled my iPad from my backpack (time to start thinking about a smart phone with a good camera function).
While the moss is reclaiming its home the dying trees give it an eerie yet photogenic feel. Nature however abhors waste and the tree stumps play host to amazing fungi.
We had such a super time exploring the moss I was sad to leave but the days are shorter and we needed to try and find the elusive A590 underpass so that we wouldn’t have to cross the scary, busy and fast road. I was empathising with hedgehogs at the mere prospect of this. But hey! Those little spiny mammals much loved by readers of Beatrix Potter’s “Mrs Tiggywinkle” do have an underpass! Good stuff.
We however were not so lucky. After following what I thought might be a path on the map but wasn’t – it turned out to be the dash-dot line for electricity pylons (shocking) – we had to re-trace our steps. This left only one course of action – other than dive headlong across the road – we had to navigate the verge (you know how much I l-urve a verge).
We shouted over the traffic and I wrestled with several hawthorns – why did I think putting a crash barrier between myself and the cars would be safer? – much to the amusement of JG who had been bolder and walked traffic side of the barrier. But finally, trying not to trip over the detritus thrown from passing vehicles, we made it to the underpass. Yeah!
It was worth being entangled by those hawthorns. Safely on the other side of the road we enjoyed a throughly lovely walk in the golden autumnal light following the cycle-way to our bus stop for home at Gilpin Bridge.
What a splendid day. We walked 5.5 miles, JG measured it. A very short walk for JG but perfect for me, I am done at about 6! Here’s where we walked … I think!
When you are Cumbrian rain is a part of life. You never go anywhere without a kagoul and the web feet we are surely born with come in very handy! Over the last few weeks it has certainly rained. And as I have a partially rustic walk home my dress code has changed somewhat.
Dressed in over trousers, trusty walking boots, kagoul, hi-vis armbands – those motorists take no prisoners – carrying my backpack and wielding a walking stick I look more like I am about to conquer Annapurna than walk home from work. I have walked along what I now consider ‘my verge’ several times and have even ‘hiked’* home across fields through flocks of sheep and small herds of cattle. Welcome to my country life!
Just shows what a difference a mile makes. Not three weeks ago I was cycling town streets to work now I look more like Bear Grylls. Infact I have rather come to see motorists as softies – skimming over the fact that I have super friends who drive me to work on their way to their own jobs in the morning – afraid to face the elements outside their tin-cans on wheels. Sour grapes on my part I am sure but growling helps me get to the end of the nobbly grass verge when the rain is horizontal and definitely aimed at me. Now who’s the softie?!
After years of resisting the temptation of the posh wellington boot – I always thought it akin to buying a 4×4 vehicle when you only drive in the middle of a city – I am considering my first pair of Hunters! Whatever next?! For the uninitiated Hunters are the aristocrats of the wellington boot world. With almost every bone in my body I yearn for the comfort and dryness of a walking welly. Upon advice I am lusting after a pair of Ladies Balmoral Hunters to make my walks home an absolute pleasure, rain (most likely) or shine.
I don’t mean to be disloyal to my present pair of welly-bobs. They do their best bless ‘em but they are not really up to a trek back and forth along a mix of lumpy, bumpy, muddy paths and tarmaced pavements. They are more comfortable in the garden or jumping in puddles with Peanut. Rest assured they will always have a role in my life.
Good news! My lovely MP Tim Farron sent me a copy of the reply he received to his request from our local bus company. Yes there is indeed a request stop on my outward journey (not shown on the website so no wonder the driver didn’t know) and the drivers have been reminded of this. Yahoo!!! I and others can use the bus to get to lovely little Plumgarths on Crook Road from Kendal. No scary, wibbly wobbly walk needed.
Unfortunately there is no corresponding stop for Plumgarths travelling from Windermere towards Kendal. So there will still be a wibbly wobbly walk home. BUT hero that he is Mr Farron has not finished. He is pushing for the infrastructure (I suspect a crossing) to make a safe stop on the opposite side of the road for the return journey. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime I think I may have to dust off these beauties…
No 1 Daughter sent me a congratulations card for the new job. She couldn‘t have chosen a more apt card.
The card is both a hint as to my new employer and also a bit of telepathy on No1 Daughter‘s part. I have – unbeknownst to her – registered for a Cumbria Wildlife Trust online event entitled „Why did the hedgehog cross the road?“. I have previously enjoyed a Cumbria Wildlife event on bees and pollinators in Cumbria. It was fab. I am really looking forward to seeing what Mrs Tiggywinkle is getting up to.
P.S. for the one reader expecting a cyclist’s rant, apologies for it‘s non-appearance. The rant was long, oh so long, and dull, watching paint dry would be far more exciting. I decided it would have been completely self indulgent to inflict it on the lovely readers of this here blog … but the next time a motorist beeeeps at me for no good reason …. Grrrrr. ….. Mx
Yesterday travelling home all roads North were busy with Bank Holiday traffic. The sun was shining and who can blame folk wanting to spend a few days in our beautiful neck of the woods. That was yesterday.
Today the weather is decidedly autumnal: wet and chill. Time for me to hunker down with a large mug of tea, do some crafting and hope our visitors are staying warm and dry by sampling the marvellous eateries and inns of Cumbria.
It felt (no pun) like a good day for me to return to the last three plant fibres and conclude the needle-felting stage of The Experiment. Watch out for my environmental confusion. I have definitely released a can of worms…
As I opened the packet I swear there was the faint waft of new cloth. I could have been nasally fooled by the notion of fresh linen. I am easily suggestible. But for a second ….
The natural colour of the skein was darker than most of the other plant fibres many of which appear to have little pigment. Again the staple was pulled easily from the skein.
Flax also had that now familiar sheen.
Like the hemp the flax worked well. I felt at home using it and although I had only given myself a small sample I think I would use it on larger projects as it can be comfortably moulded.
Eco-thumbnail: Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres. Set to make my heart race then! After hemp it is the second most highly productive crop and can be grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Usefully it can be grown on land unsuitable for food crops and may even re-cultivate polluted soils. Again it is only beaten by hemp as being the most water efficient fibre. All sounding good? Wait a moment…
Sadly – while it doesn’t need to – production commonly uses agricultural chemicals. Could this be that old conundrum? Too many consumers mean high yields are sought at the cost of the environment? I am not finished either. The usual method of extracting the fibres is by retting and this can be highly polluting to water. Luckily there are other methods: dew or enzyme retting which utilise natural processes to break down the stalks and in the case of enzyme retting contain the pollutants within tanks.
No. No. It definitely didn’t smell of mint. It was similar to the majority of the plant fibres, was silky and pulled easily from the skein.
The mint resisted the needle quickly nonetheless it worked well and I was again happy with the result.
Eco-thumbnail: This eco stuff is certainly taking me into unchartered territory. What the heck is ‘cellulose fibre’? You probably know being the wise readers that you are but just in case: cellulose fibres are natural fibres which include plant fibres … gulp how do I check that there are no animal fibres mixed in? I feel my CSE Biology or is it Chemistry .. perhaps physics? …. may be stretched here.
I am going with what I have seen on the inter-web. Mint fibre is a bio-degradable cellulose made from wood pulp infused with mint powder. Again, what?! Apparently the powder is extracted from peppermint leaves and gives the fibre anti-bacterial properties and makes the fabric naturally cooling.
I understand from some of my reading that the chemical solutions (eek!) used to process the fibre are recycled into the system. With there being little waste too this fibre is considered ‘relatively’ eco-friendly.
We have arrived at the last plant fibre I am testing. Thank goodness I can hear you saying. Here it comes. Last but not least:
Of course not. There wouldn’t be. There was no smell. Very disappointing on the fragrance front. The peeps at World of Wool describe rose as similar in appearance and feel to bamboo. Meanwhile at Allfiberarts.com the sampler describes rose as similar to banana to spin. I agree with both. I think this is because the majority of plant fibres – with the exception of hemp and flax – have suspiciously similar properties.
Again I found that the rose resisted the needle very quickly as I was felting but once more I was pretty pleased with the results.
Eco-thumbnail: This bio-degradable fibre is extracted from the natural waste of rose bushes and their stems and is considered environmentally friendly. Limited information I know but I will learn more.
That is the end of the needle-felting trial. As you have probably guessed my favourite plants so far are hemp and flax. They felt the most natural, were the most easily understood (by me) in environmental terms and I was happiest working them.
I confess this eco-vegan thing is tricky. I have felt hampered by my lack of knowledge about the manufacture of these fibres. I hope to address this. It may take a considerable amount of reading and talking to the right people but I have the bit between my teeth or perhaps the staple beneath my needle. I will carry on carrying on.
And there I was thinking this was going to be a simple project. I haven’t even begun to look at the environmental perils of dying the fibres!