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Diary 2011 September to December

 

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1 September 2011

Sewing new bean bag cover  Dino, Yellow Teddy, Brown Teddy and Blue Parrot on their new bean bag
Someone has made us a smart new beanbag bed out of velvety material with bits of ribbon woven through it. It is bigger and better than our old one, and we all decided to try it at the same time. Dino always goes on the end, so that the rest of us don't fall off. It is a lot more comfortable because the filling can spread out more.

2 September

Westgate beach, Kent
We went on an outing to the seaside. We parked on the seafront at Westgate and in the photo you can just see all the beach huts.

Westgate beach rocks  Margate - dolphin lamppost
We walked along the seafront towards Margate. These big rocks are to protect the wall and road from the winter waves. All the lamp posts along the seafront have these dolphins on, in pairs with one looking each way. This is how people thought dolphins looked long ago before photographs were invented, when they only had descriptions and stories from sailors.

Margate - beach amusements
Margate beach is very big and flat with lots of soft sand. There are lots of amusements and places to play.

Margate - dophin sign on post Margate - ice cream sign Margate - amusement arcade penny push
This dolphin is on top of a signpost and he looks as if he is making his way back to the sea. The purpose of this ice cream sign is to remind children that it has been a whole ten minutes since they last had one to eat! There are lots of amusement arcades and my favourite is the penny push. I have never seen the whole lot fall off the edge so I don't put my money it because it is unlikely I will get it back in winnings. If you look carefully, you can sometimes see the pennies making their way into the side holes where they fall into storage boxes.

Margate - waymarker near pier Margate - Dino with waymarker near pier Margate - Shell lady on pier
This waymarker is at the beginning of the pier. Dino was delighted that the shapes on it were of fossils and he is wondering if there are any more real fossils in Margate. The Shell Lady is at the end of the pier. The scallop shells are made of metal and the sculpture is taller than a person.

Margate - Drainage hole on pier Margate - Crashing waves on pier
This drainage hole is at the bottom of the wall at the end of the pier. I like to see waves crashing, but I got someone else to take the photograph as I don't like leaning over sea walls too much! I can watch the video of the waves at home, in comfort and safety.

Margate - Sloping sea wall defence Margate - Seagulls
This part of the sea all is protected by a sloping rock surface, to slow down the water and stop sudden crashes of the waves. This young seagull was doing it best to get its parent to feed it but there was not much to eat on that part of the beach. It would be better to fly out to sea and catch fish, or find some dustbins that haven't got lids on!

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Margate - Blue Parrot watching the crazy golf Margate - Lettering on beach hut
We went along the coast to Herne Bay. Blue Parrot is not allowed to fly off when we are out and about, but he has very good eyes to see everything from ground level. He found this writing on the back of a beach hut, and we were all very interested to see that someone still likes to do neat handwriting. I think they were practising it whilst contemplating the waves.

Herne Bay - Beach huts looking west
It was difficult to decide which beach hut was the best, but I think it has to be that orange one in the middle with the rising sun painted on it.

Herne Bay - Beach huts looking east
There are huts all along the seafront and they are all kept smart. I am glad they all chose different colours of paint.

Herne Bay - Green penguin waste bin Herne Bay - Black penguin waste bin Herne Bay - Bear waste bin Herne Bay - Dolphin waste bin
You can't miss these waste bins all along the seafront.

Herne Bay - Teacups merry-go-round Herne Bay - Bouncy castle
These rides are near the pier. Teacup rides are my second favourite, my first favourite are carousels with painted horses.

Herne Bay - Seagull on lamppost
This is a good place to check that the seagull's feet are clean underneath!

Herne Bay - Human sundial Herne Bay - Human sundial four o'clock
This is a human sundial. You stand on the central part and your shadow falls on the time of day. This shadow fell on 4 o'clock. There are two semi-circular rows of markers, one for winter and one for summer. The central part has months marked, so we stood on the September part.

Herne Bay - Pebbles art plaque 1 Herne Bay - Pebbles art plaque 2 Herne Bay - Pebbles art around a flagpost
This circle of pebbles has a flag mast in the middle and the 12 points of compass marked in round plaques. Most of the plaques show sea creatures, but I think they are made-up beasties, not real ones. The second one looks like an aquatic miniature dragon, and I think he must be breathing sea foam and not flames!

Herne Bay - Pier sports hall  Herne Bay - Old postcard of pier
This is the Pier Pavilion containing a sports hall. Most of the pier has been lost, and this short length is the only part that can be used. The old postcard on the notice board shows how it looked a long time ago, much more decorative and interesting.

Herne Bay - Remains of pier Herne Bay - Herne Bay Pier Trust Gallery sign
Piers were made so that pleasure boats could moor there, and as the bay is very flat at Margate, the pier had to be very long. This is the end part out at sea and it is falling apart. I would really like to see it rebuilt so that we can all walk to the end and see the whole coastline from out at sea. Maybe they could rebuild the end bit first, before it falls into the sea, and then have ferry boat rides to take us out there!

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Whitstable - Harbour
We travelled along the coast to Whitstable. It is very different from Herne Bay and Margate because it is a working fishing town.

Whitstable - Seagulls and nets
The seagulls know how to get an easy dinner with so many fishing boats and seafood restaurants around.

Whitstable - Oyster shells on beach
Whitstable is famous for its oysters. This huge pile of shells on the beach is behind an oyster restaurant.

Whitstable - Sweet shop  Whitstable - Boat in shop window
This is a traditional sweet shop, with sweets in jars and not in packets. You can ask for the exact weight of the sweets you want. Seaside shops windows are good entertainment and I think the owners spend the quiet winter thinking of what to put in next year's displays.

Whitstable - Brick wall wave pattern
This back wall of a building has wave patterns all along its length. The windows look like ship's portholes.

Whitstable - Wall with boat pictures
This is the side wall of a bowling alley building. The red sun makes it look like the end of a really hot day. On the right are the bowling pins and balls.

Whitstable - Gabion baskets with pebbles  Whitstable - Gabion baskets with fake fossils
These are gabions, which are steel baskets full of pebbles, and sometimes rocks. It is a cheap way of building a retaining wall at the seaside. Some thoughtful person has included a layer of fake fossils at eye-level.

Whitstable - Happy sunflower Whitstable - Diving helmet sculpture
Here's a good answer to the difficulties of growing plants in a seafront garden. This sculpture is just over a wooden seat, so that you can sit and put your head in the diving helmet and look out to sea.

Whitstable - Seagulls on posts
If I had waited a bit longer before taking the picture, that seagull standing on the concrete part might have made his way onto the end post. But then the others might have flown away. It is always best to take a picture immediately!

Whitstable - Driving through town Whitstable - Painted bus
We got to Whitstable rather late, so we did not have time to see everything. On the way home I like to make notes of what to come back and see another day. Next time we will come here first, before going on to the other places. This bus is very colourful but it seems to blend into the background, so I hope his brake lights are good and bright!

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6 September

Yellow Teddy checking weather forecast
Today we are going to Hastings in the church minibus with some of the Fellowship Ladies. I got up really early and checked the weather forecast on the Met Office website heavy rain and gales!

Road sign obscured by heavy rain Heavy rain on motorway
I sat in the front seat but it was very difficult to see some of the road signs. The wipers were going really fast and all the cars had their headlights on. This bridge is just by Wrotham Hill.

Hastings - Clifftop, stormy sea Hastings - Seagulls facing into the strong wind
The ladies got off at the seafront and we drove up the hill to the cliff top to park the minibus. The wind was very strong, gusty and loud, blowing the sea into huge waves. I took my old camera as well, so that I could take pictures in the rain. These seagulls were huddling down and facing into the wind. Their slim shape means they don't get blown away.

Hastings - Choppy waters on boating lake Hastings - Seafront gale blowing
The boating pond was very choppy and the swan boats were covered up. On the seafront the wind was roaring, we could hardly hear ourselves speak, and the rain was blowing horizontally. There was nobody else around. I took a movie but it took two people to keep the camera still, one to stand still as a windbreak and the other to point the camera just peeking round the side of his coat!

Hastings - The Mermaid Restaurant Hastings - Sea creatures sculptures
We all had a lovely dinner in The Mermaid Restaurant fish and chips, and apple pie with ice cream. The rain stopped for a bit, but by the time we came out of the restaurant, it had started again. These sea creature sculptures were obviously enjoying the rain.

Hastings - Shop window antique sweet packets Hastings - Shop window dolls house
Here is a display of old-fashioned sweet packets from many years ago, and everyone could remember eating the Love Heart sweets that each had little messages on. I could play with this dolls house for hours, if not days!

Hastings - Shop window paintings of net sheds Hastings - Shop window fishes ornament
There are a lot of artists in Hastings and these are paintings of the net sheds. This artist had done them really well, keeping the drawing simple and not too fussy. These fish are a good reminder of Hastings and on this rainy day they would be right at home outside in the wet.

Hastings - Shop window rotating solar butterflies Hastings - Fish mosaic at top of cliff steps
In this shop window I saw some solar butterflies that fly in circles around the pot plant. There were some water tank ornaments that look like undersea scenes, and bubbles that escape and make the figures move. Everyone decided they had had enough of the weather, and eventually we went back up the cliff steps to get the minibus. Near the top of the steps was this mosaic fish.

Hastings - Minibus Hastings - Yellow Teddy in minibus
I was glad to get into the minibus out of the rain and gales, but we wanted to get back down to the town really quickly to pick up the ladies who were huddling in one of the seafront shelters. The rain eased off on the way home, but the wind was still strong.

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7 September

Yellow Teddy with rotating solar butterfly Yellow Teddy with rotating solar butterfly in garden
This was a lovely surprise someone bought me this solar butterfly from Hastings. It flutters as it goes round, because the central spindle goes faster than the wire with the butterfly.

15 September

Chislehurst hanging basket on traffic lights 
These flowers by the road sign in Chislehurst look very lovely but they are in danger of getting in the way of the traffic lights. They match the lights in red yellow and green, very thoughtful of Bromley gardening department!

Starlings on aerial  Crow on roof cawing  Crow on roof
Whenever I see birds crowding on the aerials, I think what a wonderful view they have of all the gardens. These starlings and crows are having a look around for places where there might be food. If they see other birds eating, I think they fly off and join in before all the scraps get eaten. I would like to see the view from the chimney pot but I don't think that is likely to happen!

28 September

Garden fish pond Goldfish
We are having a very good late summer with lots of hot days. Here are the fish in my garden, enjoying a lazy day in the sunshine. This end of the pond has a shallow part with lots of weed and it warms up very quickly. The weeds are a good source of fish snacks.

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30 September

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Entrance Hall Place Bexleyheath - flower beds
We visited Hall Place in Bexley, to see the historic house and gardens. Here is the entrance and gardens. There is a big greenhouse full of tropical plants so we went in there first.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Banana tree Hall Place Bexleyheath - Banana flower Hall Place Bexleyheath - Coleus plants
There are lots of banana trees, some even growing outside, but this one inside has been kept hot enough to produce flowers and fruits. I think it will be quite a while before these green ones turn yellow. The last photo is of coleus plants, which I am definitely going to grow more of next year. I will make sure I get a packet of the brightest mixture.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - fishpond Hall Place Bexleyheath - Cactus
In the greenhouse is a long pond with goldfish and Koi, and a little waterfall at one end to keep the water aerated. Unlike my fish, these goldfish will have warm water through the year and so stay more active. My fish slow down and almost go to sleep when it is freezing. These cactus plants are very interesting, but of course not to be touched. They have put the more prickly ones at the back. This shelf is at the south end of the greenhouse, where they will get baked in the sun.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Tudor house
Here is Hall Place house which was built in 1537 for the Lord Mayor of London, although there was a building here in about the 12th century. The grey part looks the oldest, and the front part looks like a later addition in a different building style. You can read its history here: www.hallplace.org.uk

In front are the rose gardens, so I am definitely going to come back here next June to see them in flower.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - timber framed hallway  Hall Place Bexleyheath - Old oak door
Here is the oldest part, with really old rough timbers everywhere. Anyone interested in carpentry or timber framed buildings would probably want to spend a whole day here. This very old door has light coming through the nail holes!

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Hall Hall Place Bexleyheath - Hall with minstrels gallery
This big hall is a bit smarter, with wood panelling, an electric chandelier and a minstrels gallery. The two big windows make it a very bright room but it must have been very cold in winter without modern heating. Everyone wore a lot more clothes in those days, but I think they would still have been standing around the big fireplace. The servants would get warm running around doing their jobs!

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Kitchen
Here is the kitchen just off the hall pictured above. This would have been full of servants and tables, preparing the meals for the master of the house and his guests. I think this would have been the warmest room in the house.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - information board showing kitchen staff
Here is the information board showing what the kitchen might have looked like. These servants look rushed off their feet!

Hall Place Bexleyheath - high back carved chair  Hall Place Bexleyheath - Carved chair back
There a lots of carved chairs and it is very interesting to look more closely at the patterns, swirls and flowers in the wood. The detail above is either a fish, a sea serpent or a dolphin, carved at a time when people thought the sea was full of strange monster creatures.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Children's area, brass rubbing Hall Place Bexleyheath - Children's area, clothes for dressing up Hall Place Bexleyheath - Children's area, draws to open
One of the rooms has lots of things for children to play with. Here is a brass-rubbing corner, with brasses on a little desk, squares of paper and a box of crayons, and you can take your rubbing home with you. There are historical clothes and hats to dress up in, and lots of displays that you can play with. You can open all the drawers and see what's inside.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Repaired newel globe finial Hall Place Bexleyheath - Staircase with globe finials
The globe on this staircase newel post has been repaired with a wooden segment, and that was long before the days of Chocolate Oranges. You can see lots of other splits in the wood, as it is very old. How many hands have grabbed these globes over the years as they went up and down the stairs?

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Berlin wool-work picture detail The Hawking Party Hall Place Bexleyheath - Berlin wool-work picture The Hawking Party
This is a Berlin wool-work tapestry of "The Hawking Party" about to leave Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, made by Susannah Monday in the early 1900's. The hawks are sitting with their hoods on (to keep them calm and quiet). The hawks are at the bottom left of the tapestry. This type of wool work was very popular in Victorian times. It is very difficult to take a photo of a picture that is behind glass, especially when there are big windows opposite, you have to stand well to the side!

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Edison Home Phonograph Hall Place Bexleyheath - Exhibits of recording equipment Hall Place Bexleyheath - Very early sewing machine
Many of the rooms are set out with exhibits on different subjects. The first photo is an Edison Home Phonograph, which was the first sound recording machine using cylinders covered in tin foil, on which a needle made indentations. The middle photo shows the next stage, when a similar method was used to indent the sound pattern onto flat disks.

The third photo is one of the first sewing machines, which made making clothes a lot faster than hand-sewing.

Some of these exhibits are on loan, so when we go back, there may be an entirely different collection on show. It's best to take photos straight away while you are there and not wait until your next visit!

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Hall Place Bexleyheath - Tower section Hall Place Bexleyheath - Tower section closeup of flint patterning
In the Tudor period people loved patterns and this tower part of the house is very smart, looking like a Fair Isle or Jacquard jumper. This closeup shows that the pattern is made up of squares of normal stone and squares with flint chips embedded. This intricate work would have taken a lot longer than a plain wall and would have been more expensive to commission, so it would have been obvious to visitors how rich the house owner was.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Secret garden Hall Place Bexleyheath - Topiary peacock
At the far end of the house is a secret garden through this gate. I like to think of it as a secret garden, but really it is probably just a private garden, and not much different from all the other garden areas round the house! This piece of topiary is of a peacock, with the rounded part on the right being his tail.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - heraldic topiary
There are many more topiary shrubs in this part of the garden, in round and square shapes. When I saw this from the upstairs windows, I thought it was a row of toys, but when I read the labels I found out that they are heraldic animals the real ones are greyhound, bull, eagle, horse and lion, and the mythical ones are dragon, griffin, unicorn, and yale. A yale was thought to look like a deer or a goat with big horns.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - grass maze
Just beyond the topiary is a grass maze, sometimes called a turf maze. These mazes were meant to be walked round, so that the person walking could contemplate their walk through life. They were not mazes that you have to find your way out of, because there is only one route round it.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - River Cray waterfall Hall Place Bexleyheath - Geese on river
The River Cray runs through the grounds, and here it passes the cafe and gift shop. These geese are on the upper part of the river. They stay close to the cafe where bits of bread might occasionally be thrown to them by the people sitting on the terrace.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Stone sculpture Hall Place Bexleyheath - Brown Teddy in the sculpture Hall Place Bexleyheath - Yellow Teddy in the sculpture
The gardens are quite big and there are a lot of trees and open spaces. I looked very hard but could not find a name or description of this sculpture. But I did find some information which says this big stone is going to have a grass maze around it. Can't wait!

Hall Place Bexleyheath - Overflower channel Hall Place Bexleyheath - Water with duckweed
This very long dip in the ground is a channel to take overflow water and the stripes are where the grass has been mown. The channel goes all round another big field and eventually joins the River Cray further downstream. The second photo shows the water with duckweed on top, looking like a smooth bowling green, but you definitely can't walk on it.

Hall Place Bexleyheath - flower border
The nursery area at Hall Place is full of flowers, fruit trees and greenhouses. You can buy plants in one of the greenhouses. I think that possibly this type of flower border is for providing cut flowers for the house, as there are a lot of the same type together, instead of being all mixed in with each other.

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4 October

Packets of flower bulbs The last petunias
I have just about got time to plant all these bulbs before the weather gets cold. I am going to put them all in large tubs so that I get a good show. When I plant bulbs in the ground, they do not seem to last very many years, because the soil is so dry. I cleared out the straggly petunias from the pot tower, but I couldn't throw the good flowers away. I brought them indoors and they should last another week. And of course the photos of them will last even longer.

7 October

Sevenoaks chocolate shop window display
We went to Sevenoaks today. This shop window display is one of the best I have seen, all colours of the rainbow and full of chocolates. What more could you want!

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14 October

Mote Park Maidstone - Entrance
A day out to Maidstone. This is the entrance to Mote Park, where we park the car and have our sandwiches. Mote Park is one of my favourite places, as it is big with lots of trees and open spaces.

Mote Park Maidstone - Lake
This lovely view of the lake has been achieved by removing quite a few big trees, and now as you come down the slope you can see the whole lake and the rest of the park. It is a big improvement, and there are still hundreds of other trees to enjoy.

Mote Park Maidstone - Crowd of birds on lake
Some people were throwing in whole slices of bread and you can imagine the noise and squawking that was going on, mainly from the seagulls. They tend to stay away from the people at the waterside but are happy to swoop in quickly to grab the bread if they can. If you are a seagull, grabbing bread is not enough, you have to actually eat it as fast as you can, in case it gets taken from your beak!

Mote Park Maidstone - Acorns Mote Park Maidstone - Squirrel 1 Mote Park Maidstone - Squirrel 2
There were plenty of acorns on the trees and lying around on the grass. They were crunching under our feet. The squirrels were busy burying them but I think there were too many even for them. A long time ago I used to wonder how oak tree seedlings came to be growing in my garden, until I found out all about the habits of squirrels.

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Mote Park Maidstone - Fallen tree Mote Park Maidstone - Newly-planted tree Mote Park Maidstone - Tree label Quercus Robur
Brown Teddy was a bit concerned when he saw that the park had lost a tree. I think if a tree is dying or rotten, the sooner it comes down the better, and preferably taken down safely when there are no people about. But not to worry, there are plenty of new ones going in. This one still had its plant label on "Quercus Robur" which means Oak.

Mote Park Maidstone - Crows Mote Park Maidstone - List of birds on notice board
The park was full of crows walking about. Crows are usually timid birds, but they were so busy eating all the berries and worms that they did not mind when people were walking past. The park notice board lists all the birds you might see.

Mote Park Maidstone - Mini-golf sand hole Mote Park Maidstone - Molehills
Blue Parrot was delighted to find this sandpit to play in, as he likes to dig in sand and fling it around with his beak. It is a mini-golf sand hole and its looks well trodden. As it was a bit damp, he decided not to roll around but just walk over it for a bit.

The moles have been busy tidying their tunnels and leaving these mounds on the surface. I am sure they can hear us walking about and they would never come out while we are there. In private gardens, people used to sweep up the mole hills and use the soil in their plant pots, as it is fine and crumbly, thanks to the moles.

Mote Park Maidstone - Bridge Mote Park Maidstone - Paths crossing
This is the bridge at the top end of the park. The water runs over the bit in the foreground when the level is high. They are going to improve this bridge and I suspect that tiptoeing through the shallow water will be a thing of the past. At least any new bridge is bound to be a lot safer and drier, if not such fun.

A bit further on there is a choice of paths. As this is the halfway point, we decided to go straight on and get back to the starting point in the car park.

Mote Park Maidstone - Water outlet Mote Park Maidstone - Dino noticing digger
Dino was very excited about this water inlet at the top end of the park. However, as the weather was not a heatwave, he did not feel inclined to have a splash. When he got nearer and saw all the thick sticky mud, he decided that even in a heatwave he will probably prefer to just watch and listen. At least it's nice to know there is a good supply of fresh water coming into the lake.

Back at the car, Dino thought he saw a giant dinosaur eating up the car park, so after eating his sandwiches plus one or two extra, he went to have a look.

Mote Park Maidstone - Digger Mote Park Maidstone - Digger baskets
Here is the Digger Dinosaur, scraping up the car park and making it all level. It even has some spare teeth to use for different jobs. The Digger Dinosaur's owner was sitting in the cab and supervising all the work.

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21 October

Polhill Garden Centre - Koi fish
We like to go to Polhill Garden Centre to see all the fish. This is the big Koi tank and I am glad that they have plenty of room to swim around. Many of them are a metre or more long. You can get good photos from the steps that go up to the upper sales level. The staff provide bags of pellets so that children can feed the fishes.

Polhill Garden Centre - Tropical fish 1 Mote Park Maidstone - Tropical fish 2
There are lots of tanks of tropical fishes for sale. They are very decorative and worthy of a photo, but when you take a picture, it is often blurred because they never seem to stop moving and darting around. These two were taking a rest.

25 October

Chocolate coin wrapper Robin bird nest box
I saw this "money" amongst the autumn leaves whilst out walking. It says Two Pence but as 2p coins are brown, I knew that this was the wrapper from a chocolate coin. Once you have eaten your chocolate coins, I wonder if it is possible to refill the foil with melted chocolate and make another one? I will try this over Christmas if I can find any chocolate coins hanging from the tree that is!

This bird nestbox is for a robin, because the front is open. We will have to put it low down in a thick shrub where it cannot be seen. You know when it is in use because the robin will keep flying in and out of that bush all day, and eventually you see the speckled baby robins sitting around the garden waiting to be fed.

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5 November

Yellow Teddy looking for fireworks out of the window Fireworks 1
This is Firework Night and every time I hear the firework noises, I look out of the window to see if I can take photos of any of them. There were a lot more this year than in other years. I didn't hear any "screamers" which I am glad about, but there were lots of my favourite starbursts in all colours.

Fireworks 2 Fireworks 3 Fireworks 4

11 November

Priory Park - Lichen on tree trunk 1 Priory Park - Lichen on tree trunk 2
These mossy tree trunks by the pond in Priory Park remind me of maps. I haven't decided what countries they are but the top left one looks a bit like India. The one on the right seems to have lots of little clouds floating about, and I am sure they are producing a lot of rain because the countries are completely green and watered! I think they are lichens rather than moss and on some of them you can see how they have grown out from the centre.

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15 November

Robin singing Robin listening
This robin has been singing from the telephone wire outside my window every morning for some time now. Once he has sung his song, he stops to listen for rivals who might be singing from their favourite perches. He won't let any rivals get on his territory.

Path to Poverest Recreation Ground Poverest Recreation Ground map
This interesting path leads to Poverest Recreation Ground and Covet Wood. It is near the top right on the map, where the path starts between the houses. Covet Wood is on the left and the allotments are on the right. We used to have a half-size allotment here many years ago and made sure that we chose one right near one of the water tanks! We grew tomatoes, beetroot and strawberries, and some flowers for cutting.

20 November

Hewiits Farm - Stile Hewitts Farm - Brambles
This stile is at Hewitts Farm, where we sometimes go for the boot fair. They were originally designed to allow people over but not sheep or cows. Nowadays I think they are there because it is cheaper than a gate and to stop bikes going over.

Being a gardener, whenever I see messy brambles I want to tidy them up. I would not let it grow like this in my garden, but out in the countryside it is the ideal place for birds and small animals, full of berries and food, and safe because of the thick mass of thorny branches, and it also makes a good thick boundary hedge out of a simple wire fence.

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22 November

Autumn leaves blown into stripes
Here is the green area by the River Cray near the small boating pond (seen in the distance). The gardeners have used their blowers to get the leaves into stripy lines. If the day had been wet, I don't think the leaves would have budged much from the muddy grass. There must be another interesting machine to pick up the stripes of leaves, which I hope I will see in action another day.

23 November

Fluffy mushrooms
When I looked out of my kitchen window, I noticed what I thought was a very late flower. I found six of these mushrooms growing under a bush. If I drew a head and beak on each one, they would look like fluffy mother hens. Whenever I get mushrooms or fungi growing in my garden, it is always because there is an old dead root or large bits of twigs buried in the soil.

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26 November

Coolings - Twiggy reindeer Coolings - Twiggy reindeer pulling vintage car
This is Coolings Garden Centre. They have twiggy reindeer everywhere, and I especially liked this display of them pulling a very smart looking antique car. Sitting in the driving seat was a well-known character with a red coat.

Coolings - Toy robins with hats Coolings - Toy robins on pots
These robins look very happy and cheerful. The ones in the second photo would be much better kept indoors or in a porch or greenhouse. If you have a resident robin, he will attack these lookalikes as intruders on his territory and he will wear himself out unnecessarily. You will then end up with only toy robins, but no real robins! We once made a pretending bird out of a bit of foam with two toy eyes, to keep birds off some young plants, but the robin in residence got really upset, thinking it was a predator, jumping on it and pecking bits off it. We had to remove the offending foam lump.

Coolings - Stone Owls
These friendly looking owls look just like the troublesome foam lump described above, so robins beware!

Coolings - Giant 4 metre spade Coolings - Easigrass artificial grass
This spade is a good 4 metres tall. It could do a lot of useful work in the garden in a short space of time, but only if there is someone big and tall who can lift it!

I really like this Easigrass display, the grass looks very real and is soft to the touch. Only the absence of weeds gives you a clue that it's made of plastic.

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29 November

Geese on school playing field
These geese in a school playing field are doing a good job of being feathered lawnmowers, but I think it can get a bit messy if they stay in residence too long. Hopefully they have a long list of school playing fields to visit, so that they move on after a short while.

Twiggy reindeer at garden centre
More reindeer made of woven twigs in a garden centre

Netted Christmas trees Tree netting apparatus
Many of the Christmas trees have been netted but they do look like a lot of spiders have been at work. Here is the netting apparatus and I wonder if it was invented by the person who also designed the device that helps people who have difficulty getting their socks on.

Snowman snowscene toy Snowscene toy
It was a lot warmer inside the shop. I suppose one could buy all the little snow villages and snowmen, but where would one put them all after Christmas is over? I think making your own would be a lot more fun, with cotton wool, twigs and glitter, and you can get very tiny sets of battery-operated lights to drape over your twiggy trees.

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6 December

Polhill - Polar bears
We always go to Polhill Garden Centre at Christmas because their displays are so interesting. These polar bears welcomed us in. Two of them are looking towards the section of the shop that has all the decorations, maybe they would like a few more colourful baubles on their stand!

Polhill - Christmas Lights
Someone has had the good idea of setting the lights display against a mirrored wall. It is very difficult to choose the best lights, but luckily I did not have that problem as I already have too many sets of lights at home! The reason being that they were all at half and quarter price in the January sales and we went a bit overboard in stocking up for the future.

Polhill - Snowscene village 1 Polhill - Snowscene village 2
There is a big glass case with lots of village scenes on all sides, some moving and with lights and others just decorative. This was a lot of hard work for someone, but I am sure they enjoyed every minute, especially as the Manager has obviously told them to use lots of everything and cram it all in.

Polhill - Gingerbread men Polhill - Christmas pudding candles
I am glad these are not actually made of gingerbread, because I think people would try to take a piece off them and there would be nothing left to see. I think these Christmas puddings were probably candles, as they were with the other decorations.

Polhill - Christmas cakes Polhill - Chocolate coins
In the food hall, these are definitely edible. And here is the chocolate money that I am going to do my experiment with melting some chocolate and refilling the the foils. And who will help me eat up the leftover chocolate that will probably drip everywhere? There will be no shortage of volunteers for that cleanup job.

Polhill - Dinosaur jigsaw puzzle Polhill - Christmas stocking Polhill - Tiny Teddy
Dino stayed at home today, but he would have liked to see this jigsaw puzzle picture. These velour stockings are just the right size for our presents, not too big and not too small. This little teddy was on top of a larger toy, which is a shame as I might have bought one if he had been for sale on his own. Maybe I ought to go back and have another look in case I missed seeing tiny teddies for sale.

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7 December

 Covet Wood path Covet Wood planks
The weather has been quite warm for a while, but now it is getting cold, with overnight frost. We went for a walk by Covet Wood on our way to the shops. This is my favourite part where the long path goes into the wood, because you can see a long way in. These planks go over a small ditch which sometimes get quite wet and muddy. You are not really in the wood until you have crossed this bridge.

Poverest Recreation Ground - old fence under leaves Poverest Recreation Ground - Playground swing
This old fence is being buried by the autumn leaves, but when the leaves rot down, the fence posts will all be visible again. I like this swing in the children's playground, because you can lie in the middle and look at the sky as you swing.

Priory pond drying up Priory goose in shallow water
We went on to Priory Park. I was a bit concerned that the water level has gone right down, but it has done this before and I know that it will all come back. This goose is standing with his legs showing in a part where he would normally be swimming free.

Priory pavilion Priory tree trunk with rings
This pavilion looks out over the ornamental gardens and is a good place to hurry to if it rains. The park is looking bare but there are lots of primulas in the beds, waiting for some sunny days to bring them out. One of the trees has been taken down and cut up, and I make it about 30 rings, which is 30 years of growing.

Walnuts Christmas tree Magpies
Here is the Christmas Tree in The Walnuts Shopping Centre. It is a big hollow cone with leaves wrapped round. On the way home these magpies were cleaning the worms off the damp path but they soon flew away when they saw us coming in the distance. Fortunately the camera has a very good zoom on it.

10 December

Orpington Walnuts Shopping Centre Christmas Robin Lady Walnuts - Animal hats
Here is the Walnuts Christmas Robin zooming about on roller skates with a very happy face, and keeping all the children amused and open-mouthed. I looked for a robin hat to wear, but I did find these chicken and animal hats. You would certainly not get lost in the crowds wearing one of these!

Walnuts - Carol singers
The carol singers in the Walnuts were doing a wonderful job, singing all the traditional carols and songs, and collecting for a children's charity. They had obviously done a lot of practising, as they were well prepared with song sheets and everyone knew all the words and tunes perfectly. I am glad they were in the warm, so that their singing voices would last a bit longer. When they get home, they deserve to have someone fluff up the cushions and bring them some warm slippers, and a hot lemon drink for their throats.

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11 December

Yellow Teddy with Christmas Tree scene Yellow Teddy with teddy decorations
I always put out my collection of miniature Christmas trees on the alcove shelf. This year I have decided it is easier to have them all on a narrow tray. The start off straight but then they start leaning when the sticky blobs get warm. Time to get out the teddy decorations that I bought at the boot fair during the summer.

Two types of teddy decorations on Christmas tree White teddy decoration on Christmas tree
Now there are three types of teddy on my Christmas tree, the first has sandy-coloured glitter to make the teddy look fluffy. The one in the middle looks as if his cheeks are full of chocolate. The white one is polystyrene with flock on the outside. He normally goes on the little white tree up on the shelf, but this year I thought he would like to be with all the other teddies on the main tree.

Yellow Teddy with chocolate money  Dino checking the Christmas tree
This was a lovely surprise, some chocolate money inside a Christmas card. I will stick on some loops of wool and hang them on the Christmas tree but they will have to go right at the back where Dino cannot find them. He likes to check the tree over every day, but he is too big to get round the back.

12 December

Cotton wool snow in shop window  White chocolate snowman
On my shopping trip today I saw the first snow of winter. Well, it is a fridge shop! This snowman is a much better type of snow, white chocolate!

14 December

Yellow Teddy inspecting fish pond  Yellow Teddy with orange pyracantha
Now that the days are shorter and colder, the fish spend more time on the bottom of the pond. I think the water is slightly warmer down there. They still come up when it is sunny, but they are definitely slowing down. Further down the garden, I have planted some pyracantha bushes which will have red, orange and yellow berries, and two small holly trees. Although pyracanthas are very prickly, it is worth putting up with because of the huge amount of berries that they have. If any branches start getting in the way, I will bend them back against the trellis. I don't want to cut off branches that might have lots of berries on!

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15 December

Yellow Teddy with rainbow on face
I just managed to grab the camera and get into the rainbow, before the sun moved and it disappeared. It's a continuation of my rainbow ribbon! This bow has nothing to do with rain and everything to do with the bevelled edge of the wardrobe mirrors. The weather is getting colder and this picture will make me feel warm every time I look at it.

17 December

Shop window snowman  easel and canvas as ideal stocking filler
Yesterday we had a very brief shower of slushy snowflakes. Here is some more pretending snow in a shop window to keep us happy until we get a good amount of the real thing. We were amused by this second shop window where a huge easel and big wide canvas were labelled as an "ideal stocking filler". Some big stocking!

Brass band playing Christmas songs in Orpington High Street
Well done to the brass band playing carols in Orpington High Street. I've got some trumpets like those on my Christmas tree but I like the band's ones much better.

19 December

Yellow Teddy with Christmas lights at sunrise  Dino with his dinosaur books
It was a very promising golden sunrise today, although it was quite frosty. The clouds soon came over and it turned into a dark grey day, with the rain starting at midday. It was dark enough for the Christmas lights in the middle of the afternoon. We stayed in and read books, and Dino played with his dinosaur colouring book. I finished wrapping the Christmas presents and checking all the gift tags were stuck on really well.

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20 December

Decorated ice cream cone model
Some Christmas trees are just decorated cones. This ice cream cone has been decorated like a Christmas tree!

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - reindeer  Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - reindeer
We went to Ruxley Manor Garden Centre to see the reindeer. This is Bolt and Lightning, who were very happily eating the hay while families and children took photos from all sides. The reindeer eventually settled down to sleep, and I think they are probably looking forward to being back in their field after Christmas.

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - toy reindeer  Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - Christmas cows
Inside I saw this life-size toy reindeer with a very stroked-looking nose. These big plastic cows have had a paint job for Christmas, and you can just see the smaller one has antler woggles on his head. They are just right for the party season, and I hope it all comes off in the shower, ready for their next makeover! 

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - Yellow Teddy with aquarium fish  Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - fish
I always like to see the aquarium fishes in garden centres. This one can be seen from both sides. The fish are a lot more colourful and interesting than all the Christmas decorations and lights.

Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - rabbits  Ruxley Garden Centre - lizard
These little rabbits were surrounded by children who all wanted one. I hope they remember that they are not toys and that they need lots of looking after. This lizard did not move at all as people went past. I don't think anyone noticed he was there at all, because he is so well camouflaged on the log.

Ruxley Garden Centre - dinosaurs  Ruxley Manor Garden Centre - grotto
Behind the reindeer enclosure were some fierce-looking small dinosaurs. Our Dino is much more loving and friendly, and I am sure he would soon teach this lot how to behave better and not growl so much. Lots of parents and children were queuing to go into this grotto, but we could not see who or what was inside. Maybe we should have asked the reindeer if they knew!

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21 December

Yellow Teddy visiting ducks on River Cray  River Cray ducks
We took a walk along the River Cray. The ducks were making a lot of noise and when we got to their part of the river, we saw that some parents and small children were throwing bread to them. They have got used to people, and know that food is often going to come their way. By the time we got to the river bank, the people had moved on, and so the ducks came streaming towards us. But unfortunately all they got was their pictures taken!

Yellow Teddy with felled tree trunk  Ivy regrowing up trees
This big tree has been cut down and looking at the hollow rotten middle, it was obviously a danger and had to be felled. The good thing is that trunks are left on the ground so that lots of insects and beetles have somewhere to live and the wood eventually turns back into soil. The tree was covered in ivy and sometimes the weight of the ivy brings branches down, especially in the gales we have had recently. These trees further along have had the ivy cut from the root to prevent that happening, but it is growing again. No doubt Bromley Council gardening department have a folder called Ivy Covered Trees that they consult now and again.

Branch on the edge of the weir  Brown Teddy checking the River Cray water flow
I waited ages to see if this piece of branch would go over the edge of the weir but the water was not strong enough. Here is Brown Teddy further upstream, finding out the reason why not much water flow coming along. The river is usually very clear but this time there was a layer of silty mud that had settled on the stones.

Priory pond dried up with just a small puddle left  Gardener's buggy
The ponds at Orpington have lost their water again, but they have done this before and they will be full again soon. But it does look very sad to see it empty. The lower pond has just enough for the ducks to swim but it is a lot shallower than normal. We were delighted to see a gardener putting in some spring pansies and I am sure he just loves to drive this buggy around, to carry the tools and boxes of plants. If it is raining, he can sit in it and have his lunch listening to his Ipod, or maybe he likes to read his gardening books!

24 December

Big statue in restaurant  Illuminated tree lights
I finished my Christmas shopping this morning, with a few extra snacks for Dino, as he is a big eater, as all dinosaurs are of course. As it's Christmas, I think this statue in the Chinese restaurant just has to be the Archangel Michael, dressed in his armour, and towering over the traditional Christmas characters. He is making sure that Christmas in Orpington goes smoothly and I am sure he is enjoying these heavenly trees sparkling and glowing on the gloomy afternoon.

Yellow Teddy watching Google Maps tracking of the Christmas sleigh  Streaks in sky
I really like this Google Maps animation of the Christmas sleigh travelling around the world and I wish I could have a ride in it. Here is a picture of the sky outside my home and it looks just like the part of the animation where presents are being delivered at the speed of light around the towns.

Yellow Teddy watching Narnia
We all settled down to watch The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, where the children helped win back the country of Narnia from the bad Queen and brought the hundred-year winter to an end. The Lion was as nice and friendly as our Dino. After the film we were ready for bed.

Blue Parrot checking the Christmas tree  Bedtime with cosy blanket
Blue Parrot checked under the Christmas tree again. We thought that an extra blanket would make our bed much cosier so that we would all get off to sleep more quickly. Shopping and watching long films made sure we fell asleep straight away.

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25 December

Extra bags under the Christmas tree  Brown Teddy arranging the napkins  Blue Parrot arranging the crackers and cutlery
When I came down some extra bags of presents had appeared under the tree. Brown Teddy had the job of setting out the tablecloth, napkins and decorations. Blue Parrot's job was to arrange the cutlery and crackers neatly round the table.

 Dino watching the oven  Dino watching the dinner being cut up
Dino's was on oven duty, and he really enjoyed watching the progress through the glass door. When he wasn't looking at the food cooking, he was looking at the clock to see how much longer it would be. He was really glad when cutting up time came and made sure that all the pieces were cut good and thick.

Brown Teddy making smooth custard  Blue Parrot supervising cutting of ice cream
Brown Teddy does not like lumpy custard so he volunteered to keep stirring it. Here he has just put the milk in before heating it up. Blue Parrot wanted the ice cream cut in neat squares so that all the pieces had a stripe of yellow, pink and chocolate. I like the chocolate part of the ice cream best. The Christmas pudding was very nutty, so there was a lot of crunching going on, especially from a certain beak. The custard turned out really smooth and thick, so well done Brown Teddy.

Yellow Teddy watching the Queen's message  Yellow Teddy with the presents
At 3 o'clock we watched the Queen's message, all about how important families are, and I liked it when she said that even friends can be like families. After that we opened the presents, and a lot of them were chocolates and new clothes.

Angel light  Brown Teddy and Dino reading Rupert Bear book
We then went out to visit Auntie Billy and on the way we saw this lovely angel light on a house. We we got back, Brown Teddy and Dino settled down by the radiator to read the new Rupert Bear book. Stories are so much better if you are sucking a toffee, of course!

Yellow Teddy storing the spare mince pies  Blue Parrot contemplating the Belgian biscuits
I cleared away in the kitchen. I wondered whether it was worth struggling to get the tight lids on these leftover mince pies. I think Dino will soon find them, they are probably already on his list for tomorrow. Blue Parrot is looking forward to tomorrow when he will have room to eat some of these delicious Belgian biscuits. He likes the crunchy ones with nuts or hard bits. I like the chocolate wafer ones.

Blue Parrot and nest box  Blue Parrot and bird bath
Blue Parrot was delighted that we now have another nest box and this will go in one of the thicker bushes. If we leave the front on, it will be for bluetits, and if we take the hole part off, it will be for robins who like an open front. We are wondering where to put this new bird bath, as we already have three!

Yellow Teddy with snowy house ornament  Dino with glowing egg lights
This snowy house is my favourite ornament, because the lights are very bright. Dino was delighted with his new present of some glowing egg lights. They change colour quite slowly, but Dino has found out that if you look away, and then look back, they seem to have changed more quickly. I know that Dino will want to go to bed quite early tonight, so that he can play with them under the blankets when the big light is switched off.

26 December

Dino and chocolate Christmas cake  Yellow Teddy cutting chocolate Christmas cake
Boxing Day is always Christmas cake day. Dino is admiring this lovely chocolate cake made by Auntie Sally. The sleigh has made skid marks in the chocolate, and there is a tree covered in snow and a very tiny Robin. Dino kept wondering what the inside looked like, so I just had to cut it open to see. Dino also kept wondering what the white stripe tasted of, so again I just had to cut off a piece for him. We all enjoyed our pieces and some of it I made into little foil-wrapped parcels to keep for later.

Tree-shaped lights by Orpington War Memorial  Lions guarding Orpington War Memorial
We went for a walk to Orpington to get some fresh air. These are the tree-shaped Christmas lights by the War Memorial at the end of the High Street. It must look lovely at night, although I am never there in the dark, but during the day I would have preferred to see a real tree. Dino was delighted with this picture of the lions on the memorial, which we had not noticed before.

27 December

Dino and Blue Parrot with the last of the Belgian biscuits  Brown Teddy with the last of the Belgian biscuits
We really enjoyed the box of Belgian biscuits and these are the last few being shared out. Everyone had some of everything. It seems the last few always take longer to eat, because no-one wants to get to the last crumb too quickly. The white chocolate covered ones are Dino's favourite. Brown Teddy liked the snappy crumbly ones best and I am glad to say that he put these on a saucer before he snapped them.

Squirrel in Covet Wood  Squirrel tail disappearing along fence  Priory Pond shrunk to a puddle
We went for a walk past Covet Wood where we heard a squirrel rustling the dry leaves. He was moving too quickly to get a whole picture of him. The second tail belongs to a fast jumping squirrel near the park. I think they should both be hibernating by now, but maybe they are eating up or burying the last of the acorns before the really cold weather comes in January. The puddle in Priory Pond is much  smaller now, although there were lots of gulls and coots paddling about, wondering where it all went. They should go down to the bottom pond where there is just enough for them to swim.

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