Owls again and the night sky

Driving home this evening, and halfway along our drive, on the fencepost on the right hand side, stood the barn owl.  I stopped the car; he was about three foot or less away from me, and slowly turned his head towards me, illuminated by the car headlights.  We seemed to look at each other for an age (it was probably only 30 seconds or so), then he spread his wings and swooped away over the field. 

Do not assume from this description that I am an expert on owl gender assignment.  I use he but it could have equally been a she.  I understand from more knowledgable mortals than myself (my husband for example) that sexing owls is extremely difficult.  Awesome sight, whatever.

There is a big debate going on in the UK press right now about tourism and British Summer time.  The argument seems to be that if the country moved to European Standard time, tourism would be enhanced because of the longer hours of daylight in the evenings.  I think I would miss sights like this in the evenings, or watching the moon as it changes from a silvery crescent to a full circle of light.  I would miss the stars in the evenings.  We have almost no light pollution at Low Hall Cottage.  Over the last week, the evenings have been clear and very dark, so the stars are so bright that when you have been outside for a few minutes, you almost feel you could touch them.  To begin with, maybe just a few are visible: Sirius, the Dog Star, the Plough, Orion, the Seven Sisters.  Then more and more pinpoints of light emerge , the white streak of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, constellations of the Zodiac, planets like Jupiter and Saturn.  When there are meteor showers, we sometimes lie down in the dark on the grass, just watching the shooting stars flying across the sky.  It beats worrying about the global financial collapse or watching the television news.   Try the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” provided by NASA.  If you want to know more about the Cumbrian sky, one of Cockermouths sons, (now relocated to Kendal), and  longstanding friend, Stuart Atkinson has a great blog called “Cumbrian Sky“.  Cockermouth Astronomical Society  is very active and runs some great skywatching events.  Very occasionally, we get to see the Northern lights from Cockermouth, and recent bursts of activity from the sun make this more likely at the moment.  If you want to rate your chances, Lancaster University provides an aurora watch.

And if you want to know what is visible in the night sky above Low Hall self catering cottage, in the beautiful English Lake District, right now, click here.

The moon at Low Hall

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Spring is just around the corner

After all the wind and rain, the sun has come out today, and here at Low Hall, there are carpets of snowdrops everywhere.  Six mallards rose from the pond as I opened the garden gate, which was a very beautiful sight.  Daffodils are coming up everywhere, and some of the early flowering ones are already in bud.  They look like they will be opening over the next couple of weeks.  The sheep in the neighbouring fields will be lambing soon, so the archetypal Lake District spring is literally on our doorstep. 
Late February and March, through until the end of April are usually the best times to treat yourself to a spring daffodil break at Low Hall, the Lake District self catering country cottage just five minutes drive from William Wordsworths birthplace and childhood home, in the “gem town” of Cockermouth.  Easter is usually gorgeous (and sells out), but around Easter is quieter, and you can still enjoy the  lambs frolicking in the fields, the mountains and lakes, the daffodils, and the sense of new life emerging everywhere.   Amongst the wide range of books in the cottage for your enjoyment are poetry books, including Wordsworth.  Many are familiar with the first lines of  his poem “Daffodils”

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

 This is your chance to  attempt to memorise some of the lesser known verses if you are so moved.

“Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

There are plenty of alternatives to memorising poetry.  I was in Schills of Station Street yesterday, which is running  monthly “in shop” wine tastings.  Prince Charles visited the town last week, to admire the recovery of local businesses following the devastating fllods of November 2009.  Almost all the businesses are back, and the town looks very beautiful, with all the old Georgian shop fronts.  He also visited a red squirrel conservation project, at Hutton in the Forest, near Penrith.  We usually have two or three red squirrels at Low Hall, and we have put up squirrel feeders to encourage more.  All our squirrels are of high enough IQ to ignore the special squirrel food in the squirrel feeders and go for the nuts and seeds in the squirrel proof bird feeders instead.  The squirrels pantry tearoom, at Oakhurst Garden centre, a few minutes drive away can provide additional information (it also does very good home baked bread, made in a flowerpot, and usually has an open fire in the cooler weather to cosy up to). 

Our other wildlife is similarly feisty and characterful.  The wild bees resolutely ignored the hand made wild bee house we were given two Christmases ago, preferring a hole in the wall.  The Lady birds have turned up their spots at the Ladybird house, despite a very cute lady bird painted on it, and me smearing it with copious quantities of Lady bird attractant.  For some reason, they prefer to crawl over natural foliage instead.  The doves fly straight over the dovecote to nest in various nearby trees. 

A few nights ago, a barn owl flew across, right in front of the car, as we were turning into the drive.  Awesome.

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Keswick Jazz Festival

Jennings and Jazz combine at the Keswick Jazz Festival, which hosts 124 jazz events this year, in 16 different venues, providing a mecca for jazz musicians and enthusiasts from all over the world.  Music and mountains are an idyllic combination.. The festival runs from 9-13 May 2011, and there is even a “jazz bus” to transport you around the venues.

May and June are often good times of the year for weather at Low Hall Cottage .  The carpets of bluebells open in the woods, and you can sit outside eating your supper, enjoying a glass of wine, listening to a different kind of music, from the birds and the sound of the stream.  The cottage garden is beautiful this time of year.

If you want to venture further afield, borrow the picnic equipment we provide, drive out to the “Hidden Valley” of Rannerdale,  and walk up to see the legendary Rannerdale Bluebells.  You can find the location here.  They are at their best in May and early June.

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Malcolm Wilson Rally

The 36th Malcolm Wilson Car rally will start from Cockermouth on 5th March 2011.  I cannot pretend to be able to share any technical details, but even for non-motorsport enthusiasts, it is fun watching the cars set off from Cockermouth Main Street.  It will be a very different experience to Words by the Water, but could be an enticing alternative for non literary family members?

The more observant should have noticed that the photograph is not of the Malcolm Wilson rally, nor is it in Cumbria, nor is it this year, but we all have our moments.

Whatever you do, enjoy.

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Words by the Water

Cumbria’s own exciting literary festival runs from 4th March until 13th March 2011 at Theatre by the Lake Keswick.  Guests include Melvyn Bragg (the president of Words by the Water); Polly Toynbee; Blake Morrison; Joanna Trollope; Tony Palmer; AC Grayling; Roy Hattersley; John Simpson and many others, covering a wide range of reading habits and interests. Cumbrian mountain artist, Julian Cooper is featured, as also is local Cockermouth gallery owner, Chris Wadsworth, with her new book “A Hitch hikers guide to the Gallery”. If you are not enticed by literature or art, what about food? On Friday 4th March, legendary chef, Raymond Blanc will be sharing his “Kitchen Secrets”. And if you are inspired, book your self catering accommodation while you can, and try out your new culinary ideas in the 5 star kitchen at Low Hall Cottage.

See detailed program on the Theatre by the Lake Website.

If you are lucky, the daffodils will be out.

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First snowdrops are out at Low Hall Cottage

Today is the last day of January, and a wonderful display of snowdrops is emerging from the frozen ground.

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Welcome to Low Hall News

Low Hall Lake District Country Cottage

Low Hall Lake District Country Cottage

Welcome to Low Hall Cottage news. Low Hall cottage is a Lake District Country cottage near Cockermouth in Cumbria. We offer self catering holiday accommodation for 6 people in a glorious rural setting. We are passionate about the environment, the community we live in and local wildlife and hope that you will be able to come and experience the wonders of the area for yourself.

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