Sunday, 27 April 2014

53. I went to Nob End

Hello everyone! I realised that I hadn't done a regular update post in a while and seeing as April is almost over (exactly how I don't know), there is no time like the present! Before you all ask, no the title of the post is not an innuendo, it is a real place name. This week, most people at my university were still off but I was in Tuesday to Saturday (most days 10am to 5pm) on a field course in the Greater Manchester area. Nob End is actually in Bolton and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI- sounds like Parseltongue). Between 1835 and 1885, Nob End was home to a washing powder factory and the waste from the factory was highly toxic so not much was around in terms of wildlife until the 1950s when some local schoolchildren spotted orchids. As it is a SSSI, Nob End has to be conserved so it remains the same as to what it was like in 1988 when it was declared a SSSI. We also went to Chorlton Ees which used to be a sewage works that closed in the 1970s. Ees is a term given to land prone to flooding. Whilst at Nob End and Chorlton Ees, we used keys and books to help us identify the plant species to define the different habitats e.g. broad leaf woodland to produce a Phase 1 survey map. We also collected invertebrates and we found some pretty spectacular specimens. At Chorlton Ees, we collected a big black slug which I affectionately named BatSlug. We also collected some yellow snails, a couple of spiders and lots of other insects and flies using sweep nets. Despite living in Manchester for the entirety of my existence, I had no idea how green it was. There were lots of people walking their dogs at both sites and they were both parts of larger green areas so there were child friendly playing zones, benches and lots of paths for walking, cycling and running too so if you are from the Greater Manchester area, they are worth checking out for a nice picnic over summer. 
Nob End
For a nice (and hopefully permanent) change, I have actually been out and about more AND exercising. I am sick to death of sitting down in front of screens, either watching Eastenders (who do you think killed Lucy?) on the TV, writing essays and lecture notes on my laptop or scrolling through my Instagram feed on my phone. For the first time since Year 11 when I used to be a gym addict, my face looked like a beef tomato last week because I have decided to do the NHS Couch to 5K challenge. I've probably already mentioned on here how I want to run a marathon/10K for charity, specifically Parkinson's UK in 2016 once I've graduated so need to prepare for that as much and early on as I can because I'm not the most athletic person. Also, running is a great way to improve your physical and mental health and best of all, it's free (well you will need to invest in a decent pair of running shoes). I did a trial run of week 1 of the challenge last week and it was basically a 5 minute brisk warm up walk followed by alternating cycles of 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of running finished off with a 5 minute cool down walk. The NHS couch to 5k podcasts are free to download here:(http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k-plan.aspx) if you would like to check them out. I managed to complete the 30 minutes without getting blisters or a stitch, surprisingly and I intend to complete the 9 week challenge over summer. 
To treat myself for running, I did some baking. Last weekend was Easter so I decided to bake something that used eggs as the main ingredient- macarons! I used my Lekue macaron kit (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lekue-Macarons-Decomax-Piping-Baking/dp/B005LB5AXKwhich contains a silicone mould and a special piping device with lots of different nozzles. The piping device isn't very good as the lid of the device is made from tough plastic so you can't squeeze out the mixture so I ended up using a standard disposable piping bag. The mould is fantastic however and saves the time and hassle of drawing out uniform circles all over baking paper. I used the lemon macarons recipe from John Whaite Bakes but changed the recipe by omitting the lemon as my Mum doesn't like it and instead using strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream for the filling. It was my first ever attempt at macarons which is why they are far from perfect but I will definitely be making these again as practice makes perfect. I definitely recommend that you give them a go as they are incredibly cheap to make at home and nowhere near as difficult as they are rumoured to be. I'd say they were like mini merignues but you need to be extra careful and precise when making them. I really want to overcome my baking fears in 2014 so my next challenge is to make more dough whether it's bread or bakes like Chelsea buns. What have you been baking?
Until next time, take care.
Love,
Mancunian Sheep x