Wednesday, 31 March 2010


The curlews are back in the dale. Think everyone loves to hear and see them.
I found this article from the Times Online very interesting.

Controlling predators can save the curlew

It’s unfashionable, but shooting a fox or catching a stoat is good for wading birds

The last two curlews came back to our strip of Perthshire moorland at the weekend, wheeling overhead with their mournful, fluting call, plunging their beaks into the mud, picking their way warily through the heather. They reminded us that spring has actually arrived after three months of non-stop snow. It was wonderful to see them again.

But the days when we regularly saw flocks of these wading birds are long gone. Their numbers have been steadily dwindling, and it will be touch and go whether the chicks produced by our remaining pair will survive the attentions of the predators who watch their nests every bit as keenly as we do. Alongside the curlew, equally vulnerable, is a lone lapwing (also known as a peewit), still without a mate. Just another sad account of a declining species? Well, not quite.

Less than 30 miles away, in the glens of Angus, there is a different story. There reports tell of more waders than have been seen for many years. They have come back in profusion, nesting on heather and marshland, rearing young in ever larger numbers.

The explanation is one that will be resisted fiercely by conservationists, but is almost certainly right. The birds have come back to the Angus glens because they are safer there. The numbers of foxes, crows, weasels and stoats, creatures that pose such a threat to ground-nesting birds, have been brought under control by an army of gamekeepers, brought in by a new generation of wealthy landowners keen to see the revival of the great grouse moors that have been in decline for more than 20 years. They have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on activities that are scarcely talked about in conservation circles, but are standard practice on a well-managed moor: trapping carrion crows, shooting foxes, catching stoats and weasels, controlling deer numbers, and dipping sheep regularly so that disease-carrying ticks are killed off.

Their success has been measured by rising numbers of grouse, which are now an important industry in the shooting season. But the by-product has been a marked increase in the numbers of curlew, lapwing and even the once-rare golden plover.

Lest this is dismissed as merely “anecdotal” evidence, a remarkable nine-year survey has just been completed at Otterburn in Northumberland, where the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust tested out the theory that predators were the principal threat to wading birds. They took two main areas of moorland — one where predators were controlled, one where they were not. The results, published last week, were astounding: waders were more than three times likely to raise their chicks in the areas where trapping took place than in those which remained wild. When, in some years, controls were lifted, numbers dropped.

It is probably one of the most important pieces of moorland research carried out in recent years, and it raises an intriguing point: why has so little attention been paid to it by conservation bodies, such as Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds? Surely they should be embracing the Otterburn conclusions and seeing whether they might be applied elsewhere?

There is, of course, a catch. For these organisations to applaud the Game Conservancy’s findings would mean supporting the shooting lobby, backing landowners, coming out in favour of grouse moors. Not only is that a cultural leap too far, it would mean sitting down with the enemy. These, after all, are the people who are regularly accused of persecuting eagles, falcons and hen harriers. Only this month there were headlines again about the numbers of birds of prey found shot or poisoned in Scotland.

That most of these deaths involved buzzards, which have enjoyed a population explosion in recent years, and which regularly feed on the offspring of moorland birds, is considered less important than the occasional killing of a sea eagle or a red kite — species that have been introduced recently and are multiplying fast.

And so there is a stand-off between two sides in the conservation debate. One argues that those who own and farm the land are simply interested in propagating birds for shooting. The other claims that the conservation bodies favour only birds of prey, at the expense of anything else. Between them are acres of common ground — but no one seems able to occupy it. Apart, that is, from our beloved, vanishing, curlew.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Snowdrops in flower

There are lots of snowdrops around Laykin and the woods around Laykin- they are such a lovely sight. We had to move some out of the garden during building work, but are looking forward to replacing them and adding to them. I have some larger Atkinsii and single nivalis snowdrops to bring up at Easter time. The ones growing round Laykin are mainly nivalis double.

Christmas 2009

Christmas day, a walk, some skiing and gorgeous blue skies and sunshine as well as a fabulous Christmas dinner and relaxing time with the family- couldn't be better!

Fun in the snow in Swaledale

We all had such fun in the snow- sledging and skiing!
The grouse were hungry as snow had covered up all the heather- their main food source. They came down from the moors to eat the hawthorn berries. This was the first time we had ever seen grouse in the trees- they are very clumsy and don't balance well in the branches like other birds used to roosting or feeding in trees. We saw about a dozen grouse at Blades in the trees above the village and even down below Laykin.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A white Christmas- how perfect!

Our first Christmas at Laykin- it was truly magical! The snow just transformed the scenery overnight- couldn't have been more perfect! We were snowed in for 9 days!

Disaster strikes- our road is washed away

Our lovely new road was totally washed out by the heavy rain at the end of November when 9 inches of rain fell in 4 hours and many houses were flooded. The bridge at Cockermouth was washed away and we were so sad to hear about the policeman who got washed away up in the Lakes. Swaledale was badly flooded but not nearly so badly as the Lakes, especially around Keswick

The furrow made by the water in the steepest part of the hill was very deep and it made it hard for our housekeeper and our guests to get up the track. Repair works were started in December, but snow stopped work for 5 weeks so the road wasn't repaired until the end of January.

Robert Stone has now piped the water under the road and channelled the run off to the sides. Fingers crossed that it will work!

Paint colours

My friend Mel was entirely responsible for the choice of paint colours at Laykin and she has wonderful taste! We painted over the dark stained doors with Farrow and Ball's House White throughout and the walls are White Tie, just like at her house!

Jonathan spent 4 full weeks decorating with help from Andries and Phil and others, and Dean spent another 3 weeks with help from his father in law and Toy. Quite a mamouth task!

Monday, 8 March 2010

May 2009 grouse chicks

Grouse chicks are so delightful. They look like little bundles of fluff. On the second photo you can see male and female with chicks on the road by Surrender Bridge.
The other photos show the trench for the electricity being filled in. It was quite an eyesore.

Electricity arrives at Laykin

When we had a trench dug for our electricity supply, our builders accidentally severed the water supply... it was all rather unfortunate. Chaos ensued til we could cut it off, and the builders repaired the damage!

Visit to F Jones in Middlesbrough

When we were choosing granite for the kitchen worktops, Karen at County Kitchens in Leyburn suggested that it would be a good idea to go to the factory to choose the exact piece we would like as there were endless colour variations between the types of stone, even cut from the same quarry.
My friend Mel and I set off on an adventure, and using the sat nav probably for the first time, we managed to find the factory on an industrial estate. Wow, what an experience. We learned so much and fell in love with so many granites- some were like works of art. We also chose the one for the kitchen- a greenish one called verde uba tuba!
Check out F Jones website

Neil Kennedy's sketch of Laykin

My friend Neil came up in the summer to see Laykin and was instrumental in advising us on many things. He sketched this picture for us- we love it, and have framed it and put it in the house. We have also used it on our stationary. Neil is so talented but we didn't know that drawing was one of his talents! He was the one who advised us on the exterior and came up with so many clever ideas for the inside- he has had lots of experience doing up houses over the years

Some stonework

Here is the stone we had customised for the house recording the dates of the renovations- it is by the back door.

We also thought it would be useful to have a stone with the cottage name and and arrow to help people find Laykin from the bottom track. It has been christened 'the tombstone'!

Cows in the fields

It was such a lovely sunny day! Took some views from Laykin. It is lovely to have cattle in the field. This little calf was so sweet and very friendly. The first photo shows the wall at the front of the house- it is such a big drop off from it and the field is very steep.

The road is resurfaced after all the building work is finished

We used some fine grade stone chippings to repair the road after all the builders vans and lorries had finished visting regularly. The new surface is incredible!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The finished article

The cottage was finished bang on time by our wonderful builders- Calverts of Leyburn and County Kitchens in Leyburn.

We get gates and turf the garden