I would like to claim that today’s photos come from my own home, but I was just really visiting Mount Stewart, the grand 19th century mansion where my husband and I held our wedding reception many years ago.
Mount Stewart is located on the western side of the Ards Peninsula, in County Down, Northern Ireland. As well as the house, there are extensive gardens and a lake. This couple posed for photographs beside the lake, just as my husband and I did. I hope we looked happier.
These two more adventurous cygnets were just climbing out of the lake where they had been swimming with their father.
The formal gardens are as beautiful as ever.
The National Trust has recently bought the surrounding farmland, increasing the area managed by the Trust at Mount Stewart from 100 acres to 1000 acres. I’m intrigued to see how they use the additional land, and how the walled garden and dairy develop over the next few years.
If you want to see even more photos of Mount Stewart, click here. I have another blog called Townlands of Ulster. Luckily for me, Mount Stewart is a townland, so I had an excuse to keep snapping the cygnets and the gardens.
I saw a lovely photo of a European robin (Erithacus rubecula) this week, taken by a blogger from India who saw his first robin on a recent trip to the UK. It made me smile to think that a bird so common in my part of the world was special to a visitor from another part of the world. Just to prove that I don’t take the robin for granted, here are three recent images.
Robin number one: Eating an insect at Kiltonga Nature Reserve, Newtownards on 18 April.
Robin number two: showing off an unruly feather in Belmont Park, Belfast on 7 April.
Robin number three: perched in the garden at Mount Stewart near Greyabbey, County Down on 20 April.
I hope the robins know that we locals appreciate them as much as the visitors do. And do you know why? It’s because they stick around. They don’t just show up for the summer; they are here all through the winter.
The robins are more loyal than me. When it snows like that, I’m thinking fondly of Bangalore winters.
My husband and I are not regular gamblers, but yesterday we took part in a sweepstake for the biggest horse-race in England, the Grand National. We drew names from a hat when we had lunch at my favourite cafe in Northern Ireland – Xpresso.
I can recommend the coffee and the lunches at Xpresso, which is located in the Inspire Business Centre, Carrowreagh Road, Dundonald, but I’m not so sure about their horse-racing tips. Here’s a photo of our picks for the big race.
Like me, they’re happier eating their lunch than jumping over fences.
When I did my Fictional Asked Questions last month, I nearly included a question from “Bored Birder” demanding to know if I was ever going to take birdwatching seriously. To which the answer would of course be No. I love watching birds, and taking photos, but I’m not keeping any lists or chasing any rarities. In fact the one birdwatching activity that I found stressful was the Big Garden Birdwatch, when counting and identification really mattered. I’m still worried that my jackdaws may have been rooks.
But tonight I could use some help from my readers who know birds. A pair of thrushes visited my garden in Northern Ireland this evening.
These lovely birds deserve praise on the blog for being kind enough to pose in the golden light. They also deserve proper identification. I shouldn’t be advertising song thrushes if I’ve actually got mistle thrushes.
They came and left together, so I assume they are both one species. I know that Songs are smaller, and more common, than Mistles, but that doesn’t help.
It’s time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
GRUMPY FROM GOA: “This is an expat blog about India, isn’t it? I’ve been waiting for a year, and no photos of India.”
ME: I lived in India from 2011-2013, when my husband went to work in Bangalore. When that assignment finished, we came back home to the UK. No more India. You’ve missed the bus.
FED UP FROM FULHAM: “This is a London blog, isn’t it? Why am I looking at photos of a farm?”
ME: Since 2014, I have been splitting my time between two places: a farm in Northern Ireland, and an apartment in London. My movements between the two are not well-planned; neither is the blog. But if you want more of London, chew on this gherkin.
BORED FROM BUSHMILLS: “This is a blog from the Irish countryside, isn’t it? Why am I looking at photos of London?”
ME: See above – I just explained it to FED UP FROM FULHAM. You want more farm photos? Here, have a donkey.
CONFUSED FROM CAIRNRYAN: “What kind of day job lets you flit so randomly across the Irish Sea?”
ME: I have just retired from my day job. Before I went to India, I worked in London, in a world of law, writing and politics. It was always interesting, but it was the kind of job that took up all of the space in my brain. After a few years of freedom to think about other stuff, life seems richer and I don’t want to go back to the office.
WORRIED FROM WORDPRESS: “Are you ever going to focus on one thing?”
ME: I have a second, super-focused blog. “Townlands of Ulster” is single-minded in its dedication to Irish geography. But this blog will continue to be the Dilletante Drumlin.
OK, so those FAQs may have been Fictional Artificial Questions, but the answers were true. Does anyone have any real questions?