31 March 2009

In the country lanes

Although the land we viewed a few days ago turned out to be too far away the trip was made worthwhile by a pair of pheasants by the roadside

28 March 2009

English nature reserves

I have a request for those of you who visit UK nature reserves...

I'm making a web application - basically a map of England showing the location of all nature reserves. Rather than just having a marker pointing to a random location within the reserve I'm aiming to actually draw on their boundaries. The project will be helpful for developing my GIS skills and should be a useful output on a webpage in the future. In the past I've had a lot of trouble 1) finding individual nature reserves (particularly those without any sort of signs within the reserve itself) and 2) knowing when I'm within their boundaries.

There are a number of ways to determine their boundaries - existing maps and websites, books, emails to the organisations that run them or people who know them well etc. Some nature reserves even have signs showing aerial maps like the two below. These can be very detailed and accurate or just an outline. If anyone has any photos of signs like these I'd really appreciate them sending them to me. Also if you happen to visit any in the future (it doesn't have to be the near future) I'd appreciate you grabbing a photo.

Although I'd be interested in extending this in the future I am only currently planning to include actual nature reserves, rather than country parks or other regions of the countryside. I've no idea how many there are in the UK - in the south west there are 40 owned by Devon Wildlife Trust, 55 owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and a number of others owned by the National Trust, RSPB etc.

In addition to photos of signs if anyone can think of any nature reserves that I'm unlikely to know about - ones that are privately owned or not owned by one of the usual organisations I'd appreciate you telling me about them.

A big thank you to you all in advance for this (especially to my father who will no doubt end up rooting through folders and folders of photos).

27 March 2009


Since buying my first digital camera I've taken thousands of photographs, but my family have seen only a very small proportion of them. I'm hoping to display them on my own website, but since that'll take some time I've decided to upload some of my favourites to flickr.

I'll be uploading more over the next few days and then at intervals in the future.

18 March 2009

Aubergine & courgette bake

I tried this recipe the other day and it went down so well that Ian has declared it to be his new favourite meal. It feels a bit like lasagne, but is vegetarian and in our opinion much tastier due to the mozzarella.

7 March 2009

Chocolate Apple Cake

As promised, here is the recipe for the chocolate apple cake. At some point I'll type it up, but for now here's a scanned image.

I didn't have an electric whisk, but it still turned out well.


5 March 2009

To be radical, or not to be

Ian and I have spent a lot of time at Ikea over the last couple of weeks. Since getting a catalogue through the door I've been drooling over their kitchen and bedroom storage systems. Being a hoarder I have a special fondness for boxes, folders, drawer inserts and anything else that reduces clutter and makes things easier to find. We were really hoping that we would find a kitchen that we liked the look of so that we could use their storage systems, but hadn't anticipated finding 2.

I'd always had my heart set on a country kitchen with either wooden or white cabinets. In fact until we actually bought a house I couldn't imagine even being interested in something more modern. One of our options is oak fronts for the cupboards and that would definitely be the safe way to go. Unexpectedly Ian and I both fell in love with a kitchen that neither of us could have dreamed that we would like - the shiny black one pictured below. I even liked one with lime green cabinets, but wouldn't go as far as buying it.

Unfortunately there are lots of reflections from the clutter (and really horrible blinds) - I think you actually have to stand in it to get the full effect.

Despite being black it has a really bright and clean feel because of all the shiny surfaces, although I can imagine that it would be a bit like buying a white car - every little bit of grease and dirt would show up on the doors. We also have the problem that we're intending to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room. If we had wooden worksurfaces and a wooden floor then the pine dining room table would match, but how would we furnish the rest of the dining room? More black units? Would anything else match?

Ikea have some great kitchen designer software that you can download. I've designed the entire kitchen, but we can't make a decision as to whether we should go with the safe wood option or be radical and modern with the black.


3 March 2009


The combination of having time, some new baking tins and central heating has resulted in me doing lots of baking. I'm in a square cake phase at the moment - so far I've made nutbread (thank's Dad for the recipe),


and chocolate apple cake...

Definitely recommend all three. Shall blog the chocolate apple cake recipe in a day or 2.