50firsts2012and13

A review of 50 first experiences


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First 45 – sheepshearing

I could probably do with a  bit of a trim, too

I could probably do with a bit of a trim, too

21 May – At the last book group I mentioned my 50 firsts challenge. I know, they said. How about sheepshearing, with Liz’s sheep? Then Gillian could teach you how to spin the wool, and Sandra could teach you how to knit it. A huge thanks to Liz who entrusted me (under son Guy’s supervision and tutelage) with precious sheep and very sharp shears. Challenge 1: catch the sheep; challenge 2: get it on its back and gripped between your legs. Neither challenge actually met by me, but the will was there.

Marks: 10/10 I didn’t shear a whole sheep, but learned a lot on what was for a change a perfect balmy summer evening. Guy deserves a medal for his patience. I even came away with a bit of wool for spinning.


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First 43 – Dawn chorus walk

dawn walk henge

First 43 – 28th May at St Nicholas Fields Nature Reserve meant getting up at 3.30 to pack breakfast – with that holiday feeling as I got into the car in the dark. Driving past fields a little before 4am I heard the first bird start. A lovely little group with Cliff, in his seventies, pointing out the different birds.  I think I can now recognise great tit, wren and chiff chaff, though noisy blackbirds blocked out black cap.

Marks: 9/10 As a bird listening novice, I couldn’t quite enter into the thrill of identifying rare birds (“Follow that whitethroat!” sounded a bit worrying to me) but thoroughly enjoyed my dawn walk. Will definitely look out for it next year.


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First 41 – holding baby lambs less than a day old.

So new!

So new!

21 April – What a weekend – drama, tragedy, and now a Sunday evening spent with cute little animals with wonky legs and wobbly tails who hadn’t quite worked out how to feed from their mum. Liz rang me around 6 to say that a set of twins had been born three hours before and triplets that morning, and then dropped by in the car to give me a lift out to the field so that I could see them and take photos. I don’t think she or Adam banked on me taking quite so many photos! The lambs were so new were still learning where to suck to get milk, which included trying out Adam’s bare leg and Liz’s shoes before Liz persuaded them they might get more from suckling Mum. It was a beautiful evening and we walked up the end of the field to count the sheep and then back again, as the sunset gathered and the lambs curled up by their new mothers.

Marks: 10/10 – really should have put the camera down and just revelled in the experience itself. Thanks to Liz and Adam who passed no comment at all on my embarrassing behaviour.


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First 29 – discovered a corrugated iron cottage

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep....

But I have promises to keep….

Coming up a woodland path (on our half-term holiday in Newton Stewart), Cheryl and I came upon a little private stone bridge. A few yards on, we met the couple who lived over the stone bridge and up a secluded track – in a corrugated iron cottage. In fact, they’d lived in the same cottage, which belonged to the local manor, for 53 years. Miles from anywhere, they grew enough potatoes for the year, and also onions and other vegetables. For anything else, they had to walk down the track and over the bridge to their car. I was given a tour of the garden and peaked into their tiny hallway when they weren’t looking. So nosy! I could see wood panelling but the walls must still have been pretty thin – must be freezing in winter.

Marks: 8/10 – a lovely chat with an interesting couple and a chance to see another way of life. 2 points lost for not asking if I could look inside.


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First 22 – seeing marsh tits at Askham Bog

Ok, this may be a great tit / bluetit, but I did see one, honest!

Ok, this may be a great tit / bluetit, but I did see one, honest!

1st January 2013 The wintry trees were buzzing with birdlife at Askham Bog, despite the freezing weather, and thanks to my companion I was able to spot these for the first time. Rareish, apparently, though probably less so with these floods.

Marks: 5/10 – points lost for the fact that a crowd of people appeared with binoculars which made most of the birds fly off, and for the fact that when I got back I had to go on google to remind myself what they looked like.


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First 20 – a visit to the bee library

The perfect treehouse

The perfect treehouse

17 December – My first visit to the bee library (24 book-nests for solitary bees), created by Alec Finlay. A trail around the lower lake of Yorkshire Sculpture Park that lifted my spirits on a gloomy December afternoon. The perfect home for a bee – or Mrs Pepperpot, perhaps, and great choice of titles.

Marks: 8/10 – I want a home called The Little Book of Haiku.


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First 13 – Finding my tree

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6 October – One of my birthday presents this year was a tree, but not an actual tree – a tree planted in an ancient bluebell wood at Stray Head Banks, near Whitby. So today’s first was visiting ‘my’ dedicated tree. Last night’s task, finding the map,  took a frustrating 3 hours  – slightly less than today’s task, finding the actual tree. Much enjoyment to be had deciding which one had to be my special tree. The one with the flag? Too obvious. The large one? Too old. That one? too bare. Aha, this one is just right.

Marks: 9/10 for a beautiful day, lovely colours, nice trees, discovering a magic stone seat said to grant the wishes of those who sat in it, a waterfall, and a lovely outdoor cafe.