Wednesday, 12 May 2021

List of UK Independent Wool Spinners, Dyers and Suppliers


Name                                                                                                            Find/Events/ Shop                                                 Webpage
Baa Ram Ewe Online Shop
Blacker Yarns Map (visits by appointment)
Black Isle Yarns Online Shop
Buachaille - Kate Davies Online Shop
Cartref Yarn Online Shop
Daughter of a Shepherd Events and News
Doulton Border Leicester Yarn Online Shop
Kettle Yarn Online Shop
Erika Knight Suppliers
Garthenor Online Shop
Gathered Sheep Yarns Online Shop
Giddy Aunt Yarns Online Shop
Hooligan Yarns Online Shop
John Arbon Textiles Visits not possible at the moment
Kettle Yarn Online Shop
Lammermuir Wool Online Shop
Nellie and Eve Online Shop
Peak District Yarns Online Shop
RiverKnits - Online Shop Online Shop
RiverKnits - Studio Shop Map
Triskelion Online Shop
Wensleydale Longwool Online Shop
West Yorkshire Spinners Map
Whistlebare - Online Shop Online Shop
Whistlebare - Farm Studio Shop Map
Woolistheanswer Online Shop

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Allotment Update

It is a very slow start to Spring at the moment. Unduly cold, lots of overnight frosts and, it is said, the frostiest April in sixty years here in England. On many evenings we have had to go and cover seedlings and the fruit trees to protect them. 

The little lean-to greenhouse in the front garden has been getting full!

I think the damson tree hasn't appreciated the cold nights and there's nowhere near as much blossom that has "set" than this time last year. Perhaps just as well - there's still some damsons in the freezer! The Conference pear tree might not have as many on either this year, 

However, the apple trees are in full blossom as well as the Comice pear tree. 

This is the Falstaff, which is along the back fence, and gets the sun for most of the day. Last year I picked well over a hundred apples from this minarette tree and it looks to be a good year this year too as long as we don't get any more cold weather. 

This is the Gala apple tree, a reasonable crop last year but with it being very late ripening it has to be netted against hungry blackbirds, some apples aren't ripe until early December! 

This is the Chivers Delight apple tree which is getting overshadowed a little bit by the hazelnut tree at the back of the allotment. However, last year it had the biggest apples it has ever had, a yellow apple much more sweet than a Golden Delicious. 

The rhubarb in the foreground was a division from the main plant a couple of years ago and looks like it is now well established. I have frozen some already from the main plant and will, once I have sufficient, make a rhubarb compote for use with porridge or on bread. 

The potatoes have also needed considerable earthing up this April with the regular late frosts. However, with protection of the broad beans, peas, turnips, strawberries, blueberries and radishes, it looks like we have been able to ensure everything survived. 

The asparagus has been coming up and we have had, I think, three pickings from it now. 

There's been plenty of purple sprouting broccoli, we have around a dozen plants and although I don't like the taste of it one bit (!) the others in the family eat it regularly. There again, there's only two of us that eat leeks, including me, and there's only myself that eats gherkins, but there's always something for everyone in the thirty-five or so varieties of fruit and vegetables that we grow in the allotment, yard and house!

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Wildflowers at Hetchell Wood - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Earlier in the week, we took advantage of a sunny day, albeit not that warm, to take a walk in Hetchell Wood, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site a few miles away from where we live. We visited briefly a few weeks ago and it was really muddy but after a week of dry weather all the paths were clear and passable. 

Theres areas of old quarrying now with impressive beech trees growing, some of which are growing on the edge of the workings with roots descending down the cliff face. 

At this time of year though, there's carpets of Spring flowers all over the wood. I must say at this point that under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to uproot any wild plant without landowner's permission and indeed on many nature reserves and SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) there are byelaws prohibiting picking of leaves or any other items from wild plants. Leave the flowers in nature where they are meant to be! Many cultivated wildflower varieties can be bought for gardens from nurseries and garden centres so there is no need to uproot them from the wild. 

These are Wood Anemones (Anemone nemerosa), found all over the wood and also in other woods and copses in the area. These are related to Buttercups (Ranunculus acris), also flowering on roadsides at the moment. Like most woodland flowers they are tolerant of the dappled shade found in amongst the trees. Lesser Celadines (Ficaria verna - they look like big buttercups) are also to be found on roadsides at the edge of woodland in the area. 

Along one of the lesser used paths there was this solitary Primrose (Primula vulgaris), the only one we saw in the wood. 

The banks of streams through woodland are often good places to see wildflowers, often these are carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic. The bluebells around us are only just coming into flower and although the aroma of wild garlic is on the wind, the flowers have yet to appear. 

However, these Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) were along one bank of the stream in the valley and formed quite a carpet in one area. 

Although the video I have of them was a bit blurred, this still photograph is of one of the Clarke's Mining Bees (Andrena clarkella) that came back to their home under a tree root. Using its front legs, it excavated a tunnel and disappeared completely! They do need to hide as their tunnels can be invaded by cuckoo bees which lay their eggs in the same nest and the offspring parasitise the mining bee's own brood. 

Friday, 2 April 2021

Spring Walk - Bramham Park Estate, West Yorkshire

Tuesday and Wednesday this week were warm for the time of year, in fact it was short skirt and summer top weather! We explored a woodland that we've never been to before even though it is a short drive from where we live, part of the Bramham Park Estate with a mixture of public and permissive footpaths around a lake and stream. 

On one of the bankings many Dog Violets (Viola riviniana) were out in bloom.

Having walked through the main part of the woods, listening to chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and watching a nuthatch (Sitta europaea), we walked down through some farmland dotted with beef cattle and came to the stream in a very pleasant woodland glade. A red kite (Milvus milvus) patrolled over the fields. 

Quite a number of these Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) were growing in the shafts of sunlight coming down through the trees. 

We perhaps should have brought a towel with us in order to paddle in the stream, it was warm enough outside to do so, although I expect the water would have been pretty chilly!

The wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the banks of the stream, whilst not yet flowering, was still quite noticeably pungent. Too early for bluebells but I expect in two or three weeks this area will be carpeted with them.

As we walked back, a chiffchaff popped down onto a branch near me and took off again in surprise - these warblers are back from their African wintering areas although a few do now stay all year round in England. 

Back at the lake we noticed two ducks swimming around and dabbling. Although distant they didn't quite look like Mallard or other 'regular' ducks. Looking through the binoculars we found they were Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata). Although wild living now, ancestors of these ducks were introduced as ornamental ducks from China many years ago and there are now two to three thousand pairs of these ducks living wild in the UK. First time I had ever seen this species though - and I have seen a lot of ducks in my lifetime!

Although the male is the most striking in terms of plumage, both the male and female are very pretty ducks and you can see why they were brought back as decorative ducks for parks and estates. They nest in trees and like the sort of habitat around this lake, with trees dipping into the water and plenty of cover, in fact a couple of minutes later they were nowhere to be seen. 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Local Food Search websites

As part of my efforts to help people buy more locally and sustainably and help local businesses here in the UK, I am gradually doing a number of blog posts with links to local food suppliers, producers and markets. 

The following are links to a number of general local food search websites. I hope you find them useful!

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Hazel tree trim


This is the hazel tree in the allotment. It was there before we took on the allotment although at one point was a lot bigger until a chunk was cut off it when the adjacent allotment was cleared between rentals. For the past three or four years it has been giving us a reasonable number of hazelnuts although it does seem that a local mouse has been helping itself to a few as when we moved a compost bin a while ago we found a large number of hazelnut shells with small holes in them!

As you can see there are a lot of catkins on the tree this year, so I had to take a bit of care when doing the annual pruning of top growth and a bit of thinning out. 

I have some Darlac telescopic pruners which are one of the best tool buys I have ever made! Extending over three metres, I can stand safely on the ground whilst chopping branches way above my head simple by lining up the cutters and pulling a cord. The cutter can be used to grap branches to bring them safely down to the ground. 

Hazel is a very strong wood and often very straight so the offcuts are going to be used for bean poles and for propping other things up as they grow. I have sorted the branches into lengths with the longest poles nearest the camera and trimmings suitable for supporting peas behind them. In the photo there is the old swing frame that we use for growing beans up although poles in between the metal uprights are useful to support more beans around the edge. 

I didn't realise until yesterday that cobnuts are actually a type of hazelnut! Ours are just standard hazelnuts, but cobnuts are a variety that was first bred by a Mr Lambert at Goudhurst in Kent. Kentish cobnuts are in decline as a cultivated crop and only 250 acres are still grown. I must admit that I hope that, albeit through necessity due to Brexit, more of our orchards and local production of fruit and nuts is restored over the next few years. That being said, the labour to cultivate and harvest this produce is also a problem due to Brexit. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Winter in the Allotment

There's been quite a bit of snow this winter and it has been frequently cold. Whilst it can be inconvenient at times, and the ground is frozen, I do believe that the allotment and indeed the nature of these isles needs the cold in winter in order to keep the natural world in balance. A warm winter leads to an explosion in the more destructive insect life, too wet a winter leads to crop failure and delayed start to planting in the Spring and unexpected warmth can confuse hibernating animals and insect life leading to them being vulnerable without sufficient food or reserves or when the weather changes back. 

Leeks are winter hardy and these ones will put on a bit of growth when the weather warms up a little bit. We usually grow the variety Musselburgh but these ones were gifted from another allotment owner and so I am not sure what variety they are!

Poking through the snow, these are overwintering onions and garlic. Sometimes called Japanese Onions, we have grown these winter onions for many years and we find that we have onions ready to pick and use at the end of June. Garlic is also winter hardy. 

Despite the cold, the blueberry bushes are looking happy. I have had to dig a trench to put the pots in as the plants themselves are getting too big for the metal cage we have them in, otherwise the local blackbirds and thrushes will eat all the berries. Ultimately, I may have to prune the plants back but we'll see how things go this season. 

At the back of the allotment is the hazel tree. As you can see in the picture it has a lot of catkins on at the moment. I will need to trim the top growth above the catkins soon, I have read that late February is the best time to do this, as it is with the Hawthorn tree in the garden. In the background is one of the frequent snow showers that we have experienced over the past few days! 

Finally for today, down at the bottom of the allotment are several purple sprouting broccoli plants. Hopefully these should come into production in a month or so, although looking closely at some of the the leaves I can see beak marks from the local sparrow population! I suppose they need vegetable matter to go with the fat balls we leave out for them! 

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Cycle ride, lichen and an old way marker

With the forecast for the weekend being for rain and then snow and the weather over the past few days not having been great, I decided to take the chance with a little bit of sunshine yesterday afternoon to go for a short cycle ride into the countryside. 

I've been reading up on lichen recently and it is amazing how many different species there are here in the UK! Looks like there's a lot to learn and some close up photography required

Right now I am not sure what the lichen on the left hand side of this branch is but I think on the right is another example of Xanthoria polycarpa. The tree that it was on I think was a larch looking at the few remaining cones on it. 

This tree was in a small patch on ancient woodland where Catterton Lane crosses the old Roman Road from Tadcaster to York, now marked as part of the Ebor Way footpath. I am looking forward to the bluebells and wild garlic that carpet these woods in Spring! 

On the opposite side of the road, being taken over by brambles and moss is what looks like a boundary stone or maybe even an milepost from the old road. The old route will probably have been in use until the building of the turnpike road which follows the more modern route of the A64. Walking along the old Roman road, I am always very conscious of the way in which the track has been worn into the earth by centuries of pedestrians, horses and carts. Maybe even the army of the Earl of Newcastle in 1642 during the Civil War

Once through Catterton and up the long hill towards Bilbrough, there's a junction and turning left this will lead past Normans Farm to the road between Askham Richard and Healaugh. From this road on a clear day you can see not only back towards Tadcaster and the breweries in the distance, but also looking north west, Armscliffe Crag in the far distance. 

With the sun quite low in the sky by mid-afternoon at this time of year I took the opportunity to experiment with the "Sunset" setting on the camera (though of course you could achieve this by changing the aperture, exposure and iso settings manually). I noticed this dead tree with a lonely crow on it and lining up this with the sun behind the clouds I created what I have entitled "Post-Apocalyptic Crow"!

Friday, 5 February 2021



This winter has been often very wet with flooding in places but there has also been some frost and snow. Snow isn't to everyone's liking and here in the UK our transportation networks are - despite what I assume is decades of experience - hopeless at dealing with it. However, I am very much in favour of the seasons happening in the correct place and time, two years ago the temperature reached 20 degrees celsius on one day in February which really isn't normal! The study of phenology has a long history here in the UK with records going back centuries in some cases, observations such as the first appearance of flowers, of blossom, of the first swallow among many other things. Spring has been getting earlier due to climate change and in general the weather has been getting more chaotic, and milder winters are often the norm nowadays.

So, to me, having a "proper" winter is reassuring. Knowing that the frost breaks up the soil into a tilth, that it sweetens the parsnips, that the many plants and bulbs that need the cold as part of their life cycle get what they need. Too harsh a winter can of course reduce populations of birds and other species but we humans can help with that by supplementary feeding and land management such that food is available for them when they need it. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Not yet Spring!

 I've not been writing much on the main part of the blog just recently as I have been concentrating on the list of Markets in Yorkshire and Lancashire which you can find here. However, despite the cold, snow, frost and rain, we've managed to get to the allotment a few times to dig over and tidy, although the ground has been either too frozen or too mushy to get much done on many occasions. 

Likewise, getting out for exercise in this latest lockdown has often been difficult due to the weather and the River Wharfe and Ouse and various feeder streams have been flooding into field and over roads. The edge of a bridge on the road near Bolton Percy (from Tadcaster) looks like it had collapsed into the water when I cycled down there last Friday. 

Further down the same stream, in Bolton Percy itself, you can see above how far the water has been , with the houses to the left of the photo only just above the water line. The road would normally take you round the back of the village or to some farms and cottages. After I took this photo I was watching Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) in the trees and then had the surprise of a female Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) on a nearby bird feeder, some of the latter now overwinter in England although most do still migrate to Africa. 

Coming back, I paused at a gate to examine the lichens on it. This is an area of nature I want to learn more about and although the cost of the field guides is quite high, there are some internet resources too. 

Whilst I wouldn't be that confident in my identification, the light coloured leafy one in the foreground may be Physcia tenella and the yellow one behind it may be Xanthoria polycarpa. These are common lichens throughout England. I am not sure what the leafy moss/liverwort is nor the other lichens as yet. 

Behind this gate is the tree I like returning to, which I mentioned in this blog last year near the start of the first lockdown. Bare just now, like other deciduous trees, it is domant awaiting the arrival of longer days and warmer weather. 

A lot of fields are flooded around us right now, and with the cold weather these often turn to ice. However, on the way back from Bolton Percy these Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) had found a patch of unfrozen water on a field and were enjoying the experience! The drakes seem to have very glossy plumage at the moment, no doubt in preparation for the breeding season to come. 

Finally, a hint of Spring (though no one has told the weather that, as there's snow on the ground today!)