Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cheddar Gorge

The weather forecast says this evening snow will hit the UK. Certainly today more birds have come into the garden than for many weeks. I was chatting on the phone yesterday to a friend and between us he and I had about 20 species in both our gardens (He's in Gloucestershire) during out 20 minute chat. Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Blackcap to name three. Do these birds know cold weather is on the way?

I spent this afternoon at friends in Cheddar, home of cheese and the famous Gorge. They'd moved from a house set in 13 very steep acres on the edge of the Gorge to a bigger house but in a smaller garden in the village. What they have lost with 13 acres they've gained in a flat garden. A lot of work to do but their house had a lovely feel, almost Mediterranean with the courtyard and outbuildings. It used to be the bakery in Victorian times and they'd been given a fabulous photograph of their property in the 1880's complete with men and women in dark clothing.

While sipping tea, a Wellingtonia tree which can be viewed from the kitchen provided a few bird species, and apparently 40+ Jackdaw roost in here at night.

But after visiting my friends, I made my leave and drove home via the Gorge (above), spying a few of the Jacobs Sheep which were introduced a few years ago to help control invasive species on this absolutely fabulous limestone feature.

While watching these sheep, one of the resident Peregrine Falcons flew down the Gorge. A couple of years ago I sat one summer's day and watched the antics of these glorious birds of prey up and down the Gorge. Always a treat to see.

As it was about 4.30pm, I realised the days are lenghtening rapidly now. Depending on what calendar one uses today or tomorrow is the Pagan Festival of Imbolc, or the first day of spring. It always gladdens the heart to see the evenings lengthen rapidly at this time of year.

However although the days may lengthening, the weather tonight was distinctly cold. As can be seen by the above photo, taken at the top of Cheddar Gorge at 4.58pm it was minus 1 degrees. Further up the Mendips on the way home, it dropped to minus 3. And with the strong wind, it was absolutely freezing. It may be the first day of Spring, but we have a long way to go before feeling warmth on the skin.

Mind you this cold weather can bring the most stunning sunsets, such as this taken from Charterhouse on the Mendips, looking towards Wales at 5.05pm today.

The final piece of wildlife watching today was a Little Owl on a telegraph pole near home. I always look out for these birds, but this is the first time I've ever seen one there. Happy Imbolc to those of you reading this and celebrating the first day of Spring.


  1. What a cracking post Andrew. Cheddar Gorge is amazing but I've only ever seen it in the tourist season so - seeing it through your eyes today was a treat - as was that sunset!!

    And Happy Imbolc to you
    (although looking at snow covered ground it's difficult to believe it's the first day of Spring)

  2. Actually Tricia, while driving up the Gorge, I did think a photo journey up there one day may be a good blog posting. It is dramatic out of season, I often drive up there at night, and in the winter it has a special quality if I park up and walk a while in the pitch dark with those 350 feet high near verticle cliffs rising up and lit by moonlight. Quite intimidating and definitely a posting to come.

    Happy Imbolc to you too, no snow here.

  3. Thanks Andrew for your comments,I will try the Exmouth area next, not too difficult as our son is based as Lympstone at the moment so we do go down to visit him sometimes.
    Enjoyed reading about Cheddar, you notice so much as you travel about, I'm sure I miss alot of stuff but I'm improving!

  4. Some excellent atmospheric photo's today. keep them coming!

  5. Thanks Goosey, the observation has become more acute since writing the blog, keeps me alert for a new story or angle.

    Thanks Warren, I try my best