Despite having over a dozen overseas places on my ‘must visit’ list, 2015 was a year in which I stayed on these shores, unless you count the Channel Islands as abroad. Although outside of the United Kingdom, I don’t regard our annual holiday in Herm as a trip overseas.
Apart from a day trip to Llandudno in April, my first holiday was a repeat trip to the Outer Hebrides, this time on an organised rail and coach trip. The last time I was in the Hebrides, Sandra and I flew there and drove the length of the Isles from Barra to Stornaway. This holiday, organised by Railtrail, visited the West Coast of Scotland, Skye, the Uists, Harris and Lewis, before returning via Inverness.
I extended the holiday by going via London and travelling the entire length of both the West Coast and East Coast routes. This proved to be worth the extra as I have not travelled these routes for many years, and in first class too. I stayed an extra day in Glasgow before joining the party, which gave me the opportunity to visit Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
Despite a couple of days of wind and rain, in general the weather was fine for May, though it was a little too early in the year to visit the Isles as they are not at their best until summer.
Sun setting over Guernsey
By July, the temperature had warmed up nicely and we enjoyed fine weather for our annual holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Herm. This was our fifth holiday on the island, each time staying in different accommodation. Needless to say, we had another wonderful break from the hustle and bustle, and we have already booked again for 2016.
In mid-August, we had our last holiday of 2015 when we stayed in a caravan at Seahouses in Northumberland. We have never visited this part of the country before, and we were attracted here by the prospect of visiting the Farne Islands. We were hoping to see some puffins, but they had already left their colony to spend the next eight months out at sea. I did catch a fleeting glimpse of a couple of puffins on the sea, but not close enough for a good view.
Cricket at Bamburgh Castle
While we were on the Farnes, we joined the National Trust and visited a few of their attractions while we were there. We also visited nearby Bamburgh, where we watched cricket on one of the most picturesque grounds you could find. On the only rainy day in the week, we took a train journey to Edinburgh to pass the time.
Northumberland is a lovely place to stay, and we have already booked a seafront apartment for 2016 when we will visit at a time when the puffins are still around.
The advantages of having a gardener became evident in 2015. Without having to do any weeding in the flower borders, I was able to spend time in the wildflower meadow. I managed to keep the growth down by mowing a couple of times in the year. This allowed a few flowers to take hold amongst the grasses.
Full Moon over Bracken House, from the paddock
Around the pond, I left the grass unmown because a pair of moorhens nested in the reeds. They successfully raised seven chicks. There are still three birds left on the pond today, the others presumably having moved on. It was great watching the chicks grow, but it was disappointing to see the moorhens chase away the mallards that have been visiting for the last couple of years.
The vegetables were disappointing this year due to very wet and cold conditions. The onions, asparagus and potatoes were a success, but the beans, sweet corn and parsnips were failures. Hopefully, in 2016 I will have more time to spend in the vegetable patch.
In the house, we did some decorating on the lower floor and had a few alterations done to doors. New blinds are needed this year which will brighten up the house.
The birth of our second grandchild Daniel George in October was a personal highlight.
My interest in the weather continued and in 2015, I re-designed my weather website. I taught myself Adobe Dreamweaver and Lightroom which helped me create my new site.
July 1st saw the highest temperature ever recorded at Bracken House when the thermometer touched 32.7°C. Fortunately, we missed the heatwave as this was the day that we flew to the Channel Islands, which were shrouded in a sea mist, with temperatures in the mid-teens.
Back on January 10th, a wind gust of 49 mph was recorded – the highest ever here.
Computing and Photography
In 2015, I purchased a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud service and I want to make sure that I get full use for the £45 monthly fee this year. Next on my list to learn is Photoshop and Premiere, which is their movie-making programme. Although I struggle getting to grips with some of the features the Adobe range has, it keeps my brain active on days that I can’t get outside.
I’m slowly working my way back through the thousands of photographs that I have taken over the years and adding them to Lightroom. Once imported, they can be edited, catalogued and uploaded to my Flickr account. Without photographs to refer to, I find that I readily forget places that I’ve visited. Having a photographic record is worth all the effort, and allows other to share in the places I have visited.
What about 2016?
No New Year resolutions for me as I don’t keep them anyway, but I do need to lose some weight if I am to cross off some of the places I want to visit. I would like to return to Norway during the Midnight Sun period and take the bus journey from Alta to Tromsø, staying a couple of days in each place. This is a six hour journey through Northern Norway, including several ferry journeys and featuring some amazing scenery.
Along with our trips to Herm and Northumberland, this will probably be all the holidays we will take in 2016.
I hope to spend more time in the garden in 2016, although a lot depends on the weather. I’m quite happy pottering about in the vegetable patch nowadays and I’m not too bothered about venturing far from home. We will probably visit a few more National Trust properties while our year’s membership is still in force.
- LETTER: Praise for Outer Hebrides in 2015 tourism success (islandnewsandadvertiser.co.uk)
- Whale Song Bunker (bldgblog.blogspot.com)
- Challenger loses in battle to re-invent Lews castle (scotsman.com)
- Northumberland Coastal Path (Craster to Bamburgh Castle) (halfwayhike.com)