Today’s Treasures – Meet the Spice Girls our Ex-battery Hens

Meet the Spice Girls

We have adopted some ex-battery hens through the British Hen Welfare Trust @BHWTOfficial.  We’ve called them ‘The Spice Girls’ – there’s Cinnamon, Meg (nutmeg) Corrie (coriander) and Ginger.

I received an email from the Trust advising that they had 350 hens needing new homes in the Wrexham area so I offered to adopt some.  I’ve kept hens for years so was somewhat surprised to receive lots of advice on how to look after them – although I do appreciate that there would be quite a few new foster families who had never kept hens before.

What surprised me even more were the recommendations for caring for ex-battery hens.  I had to go and get some layers mash (which is basically crushed layers pellets).  My free range hens are mainly fed on corn (locally grown wheat) with some layers pellets during the winter. Evidently ex batts need the food they are used to for a while – I found this out when I tried to tempt them with some bread – they looked at me as if I had gone mad!  Goodness knows what they will do when they eventually encounter a worm!

Our hens have a very large hen house and I was advised to keep our new arrivals in a smaller pen inside the hen house initially.  So I shut them in a little pen for the first three nights.  On the fourth evening, I took the top off so they could get out but (as I was told but didn’t quite believe) they were all still in their little pen in the morning.  I went out at lunchtime to see how they were getting on and Ginger was ‘gingerly’ exploring the hen house, carefully negotiating around obstacles and looking curiously at the food trough full of corn.  Head on one side she studied everything cautiously.  Then Doris came in with Dillon to see what I was doing and if there were any titbits.  Amazingly they ignored Ginger – even Dillon – who usually jumps on everything that moves – it was like Ginger belonged to a different species.  Usually there’s a bit of a scrap when new hens arrive – until they have sorted out the pecking order.  Next morning, they were all in their little pen once more.

The Spice Girls are missing a lot of feathers and their combs are pale and droopy.  Hopefully they will all be feeling better soon and their combs will be bright red again.  Here are some of the other hens outside with Dillon – our Dorking cockerel – wonder how long it will be before the Spice Girls join them?

It’s fascinating looking after livestock – you never know what you are going to find when you go out in the morning – there’s always something interesting going on.  My hens come running when I call them – and of course they give me presents of beautiful free-range eggs!

Published in the February edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Update on the Spice Girls – our ex-batt Hens

Update on The Spice Girls – our ex-batt hens

The bad news is that Cinnamon didn’t make it, she was struggling to stand up and eventually just gave up.  The other three worked out how to hop out of their little pen and joined in scratching for bits in the hen house – keeping a wary eye out for the resident hens and keeping out of their way as much as possible.

Ginger has become very inquisitive and now she always hops out to meet me and follows me around, keeping close to my feet to avoid Doris and Fliss and Floss – the youngest hens.  Here she is pecking at the grass – it’s the first time she’s seen snow and she’s missing half her feathers but she’s happy to be outside when I am around.

Although the young hens don’t like the Spice Girls and peck at them if they get too close, the older hens are quite kind to them.  Ebony, the oldest, really doesn’t think a lot of Dillon and has always kept out of his way as much as possible.  She has found the little pen a refuge and spends quite a lot of time in there with the Spice Girls.

Whilst the rest of the hens perch at night, the Spice Girls all go back into their little pen.  I wonder if they will ever learn to sleep in the rafters.  In the meantime, they’ve learned how to perch on the edge of their pen in order to get out, that sunflower seeds are a treat worth running over for and grass is edible.

This is Dillon with Doris – she is the biggest bossy boots in the hen house and definitely top of the pecking order.

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

I was wondering what the Spice Girls (our newly arrived ex-battery hens) would make of Dillon – our Dorking cockerel – he’s grown into a really fine specimen.  He was a bit small when he arrived and I wasn’t sure if he would grow to full size, but, as you can see, he has.  I put an ad on when I lost my last cockerel and a very kind family from Kent donated him.  A friend of theirs was visiting family in Cheshire and she offered to deliver him.  We met at Audlem (which is how I came to write about Audlem for Today’s Treasures).  It was a baking hot day and she was worried he might get too hot – she was also worried that he might crow all the way there but he was really good and arrived safely.  I racked my brains of a way to say thank you – then spied the pumpkins – and thought they might be a good idea (it was September) so swapped Dillon for two pumpkins – one for Dillon’s taxi driver and one for his previous owner.

The Spice Girls have settled in – and are laying eggs!  But (as I was warned) have stayed pretty much in their little pen.  However, I went out at lunchtime to see how they were getting on and Ginger was ‘gingerly’ exploring the hen house, carefully negotiating around obstacles and looking curiously at the food trough full of corn.  Head on one side she studied everything cautiously.  Then Doris came in with Dillon to see what I was doing and if there were any titbits.  Amazingly they ignored Ginger – even Dillon – who usually jumps on everything that moves – it was like Ginger belonged to a different species – or was invisible.  Ginger ignored them too.  So I guess it will be a while before they realise they are all chickens and then there will be a bit of a scrap until they have sorted out the pecking order – and the Spice Girls will eventually find out that Dillon’s a cockerel!

Meet The Spice Girls – our Ex-battery hens

Meet the Spice Girls

We have adopted some ex-battery hens through the British Hen Welfare Trust @BHWTOfficial.

We’ve called them ‘The Spice Girls’ – there’s Cinnamon, Meg (nutmeg) Corrie (coriander) and Ginger.

As advised, I’ve kept them in a smaller pen inside the hen house.  I shut them in the little pen for the first three nights.  I’ve taken the top off today so they can see outside but (as I was told but didn’t quite believe) they have stayed in their little pen.  I wonder how long it will be before they venture out.  They probably don’t even know they can jump onto the side of the pen to get out.

My hens all perch at night – I have put perches at a sensible height (3 – 4 feet off the floor) but the younger ones fly up to the rafters as high as they can get.  They fly up in stages but come down in one big jump – of course feathers help a lot in getting them safely to the ground.  It’s a big shed so they have plenty of room to manoeuvre and navigate a flight path.  The older hens are more sensible and perch lower – and come down in stages – I put straw bales in steps so they can hop down a bit at a time.

The Spice Girls are missing a lot of feathers and their combs (the red bit on the top of their head) are pale and droopy.  To henkeepers this is a sign that a hen isn’t happy.  Hopefully they will all be feeling better soon and their combs will be bright red and perky.  Cinnamon doesn’t seem to want to stand up much so I’m keeping an eye on her.

Here are some of the other hens outside with Dillon.

Today’s Treasures – Snowflakes

Snowy Shropshire

The snow transformed Shropshire into a magical winter wonderland, blanketing the fields in white, icing branches and fences with a layer of glittering frosty snow and, even as I write, the hilltops and field edges are still highlighted in wintry white – although a smudge of snow and a carrot are all that is left of our snowman!

There’s something hypnotic about watching snowflakes falling – each one a tiny unique crystal different from the rest, softly fluttering to the ground and gradually, relentlessly, changing brown and green to dazzling white.

The snow brings lots of hungry birds to our bird table.  Coming into the warm with frozen fingers after feeding the birds, there’s something really satisfying about watching them enjoy the peanuts and seed cake – and sipping water from a birdbath you have just thawed out.

All the places I have written about this year will look very different in the snow to the photographs I took – Grinshill, Audlum, Brown Moss, Wollerton Garden, Stokesay Castle – but at all of them there is a touch of magic in every season – even in the darkest days of the year – a robin singing, the scent of a late winter rose, bright red holly berries – if you stop for a moment – use all your senses – you can feel the magic of life around you.

All of us suffer sadness at some time in our lives.  Sometimes that sadness is hard to dispel and that’s when Today’s Treasures can help – finding something lovely in every day and enjoying that moment with all your senses.

A kind word, a thoughtful act – a smile for a stranger – is sometimes all it takes to bring sunshine to someone’s life – and make them feel better.

Wishing you all many moments to treasure in 2018.


Published in the January edition of the Whitchurch gossip

My 12 days of New Year Today’s Treasures

Special moments to treasure every day #mentalhealthin2018

Day 1:  A free range egg for breakfast from #happy #hens #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 2:  Herbal tea made with fresh #herbs – camomile, mint, hyssop, thyme, sage will all grow in windowsill pots #mentalhealthin2018



Day 3:  Watching the wild #birds eating the food I have put out for them #mentalhealthin2018



Day 4:  Eating fresh fruit #mentalhealthin2018



Day 5:  Walking in the #sunshine – even if it’s not sunny – fresh air helps clear your mind #mentalhealthin2018



Day 6:  A vase of wild #flowers or winter berries on the kitchen windowsill I can look at whilst washing up #mentalhealthin2018



Day 7:  A smile – smiling makes you feel better, sharing a #smile makes two people feel better #mentalhealthin2018



Day 8:  Listening to the birds #singing especially the robin – beautiful, mellow, liquid notes #mentalhealthin2018


Day 9:  #hugs – everyone needs hugs – if you don’t believe me just try it with an open #mind #mentalhealthin2018


Day 10:  #music – but especially sharing live music #mentalhealthin2018


Day 11:  #sunset watching the sun go down #mentalhealthin2018



Day 12:  Writing helpful happy #tweets and posting pretty pictures on #twitter #happiness #mentalhealthin2018

Today’s Treasures – Grinshill



Grinshill is one of the smallest parishes in North Shropshire but with one of the best views across the English Countryside.  It’s quite a steep climb up the meandering path but, when you finally reach the rocky outcrop at the summit, it’s well worth the view – patchwork fields speckled with sheep and cows, dotted with farms, criss-crossed with lanes and hedges, all bright and sparkling in the morning air.  The reds, golds and dark greens of autumn frame a landscape of peace and tranquillity sleeping in the autumn sunshine.

The Hill rises to 192 metres (630 ft) above sea level and evidence has been found showing it was used during the Mesolithic to Neolithic period.  From the top you can see many other hills and ancient settlements including The Wrekin, Caer Caradoc, Corndon Hill, Cefn y Castell, Titterstone Clee, The Long Mynd, Breidden Hill and Haughmond Hill.


The buff-coloured sandstone quarried at Grinshill since at least the 12th century has unique properties.  It was subjected to volcanic heat giving it its buff colour and making it extremely tough giving a sharp straight side whichever way it is cut.  The Romans recognised these qualities and used it to build Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornovium), once the 4th largest city in England.  You can also see it at Haughmond Abbey, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury Railway Station – and even at No. 10 Downing Street – the lintels and door surround are made from Grinshill sandstone.

Whatever time of year you visit Grinshill, and whichever way you walk to the summit, there’s always a great sense of achievement to reach the top and see that panoramic view spread out in front of you.


There is a car park at Corbett Wood and there is also a more direct path from Clive church. It is a site of special scientific interest because of its geological importance – exposed rock faces show fossilised skeletons and footprints and distinctive features such as fossilised sand dunes and rain prints.

Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Blackberry Fair

Blackberry Fair – Ten Glorious years!

This is the 10th year that Whitchurch has been transformed into a living, breathing festival of music, song, dance, poetry and street theatre, complete with Lost Luggage (below) – the metallic beastie from a long lost planet – and The Urban Astronaut – bringing hope to a dying world.


When I arrived, Urban Astronaut were just positioning their lifting machine ready for moving into action outside the Civic when someone spotted a mouse hiding in one of the speakers.  Much to the amusement of onlookers, he was carefully rescued and set free before they trundled off down the High Street to save the rest of the world.


Sustainability is what Blackberry Fair is all about – a carnival filled with the rustic spirit of nature, growing things, Meres and Mosses, the Wild Zone, scarecrows, recycling, herbs and herbalists, the Fairtrade town becomes a magnet for artists, poets, actors, dancers, singers and musicians; a haven for food lovers, real beer drinkers, nature lovers, photographers and writers.  It inspires, fires the imagination, screams innovation; young and old are all captivated, drawn in to the spirit of sustainability, saving the earth – mesmerised by Urban Astronaut’s street theatre.


The afternoon culminated in the Carnival of Plenty, celebrating the spirit of harvest with Morris dancers, stilt-walkers, and fire breathers – and the music carried on into the evening with incredible poetry and music and dancing into the night.


See more photos at

Published in the November edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Audlem Wharf

Today’s Treasures – Audlem Wharf


Take a walk on the waterside this autumn – along the Weavers Way at Audlem – the towpath along the Shropshire Union canal which was designed and built by Thomas Telford.  One of his last projects before his death in 1834, it includes a flight of 15 locks and an aqueduct over the River Weaver.


It was a beautiful autumn morning, warm and sunny with just the hint of a breeze stirring the branches overhead, dislodging yellowing leaves which fluttered down like confetti to drift lazily along the surface of the canal, dappled sunlight painting patterns on the sparkling water,  ripples chasing each other along the canal banks to finally swirl in eddies and whirlpools at the lockgates.


Brightly patterned barges were tied up at the permanent moorings – chimneys smoking and washing  fluttering in the breeze – and part of me longed for the simplicity of canalside living – so different now from the days when narrow boats worked the canals carrying everything from coal to cheeses, spending their whole lives on the canal and stopping only when the ice was so thick it froze them to stillness.  This towpath remembers horses hooves plodding along pulling working boats behind them, the locks a real hindrance to momentum – once the boats were moving it only took slight pressure to keep them going but a standing start takes a lot of horsepower.


Next to the Shroppie Fly is Audlem Mill, built in 1915 for H Kingsley Burton, a local miller – it was one of the first mills powered by a diesel engine.  It was converted into retail space in 1973 and is now a treasure trove for canal enthuiasts and needlework artists.  The ground floor has an extensive selection of canal ware – from windlasses and neckerchiefs through jigsaws, candles and teatowels to canal books and maps.  The first floor is (to quote the leaflet) ‘An Aladdin’s Cave of every kind of product and accessory for needleworkers’;  sewing, knitting, weaving – whether you are making cushions, bonnets or rugs – it’s a paradise for anyone who loves art and crafts – with some wonderful gift ideas.   Audlem Mill hosts workshops on all these skills throughout the year visit for details.


Part of the Canal and RiverTrust, The Towpath Taskforce at Audlem welcomes volunteers to help to maintain the towpath.  They meet on the second Saturday of each month at the wharf outside the Shroppie Fly pub at 10.00 am.  If you think you might be able to help please contact Neville Preece on 0303 040 4040 or at [email protected]

Published in the October edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Autumn, season of mellow mists and fruitfulness

 Autumn at Brown Moss


In Shropshire you never have to go far to find tranquillity.  We are surrounded by fields, trees, hedges and streams but, even in our market towns, there are pockets of greenness where you can think and breathe; space to relax and remind yourself of the beauty that is all around us – the wings of a butterfly, the fragile petals of a flower, the delicate notes of birdsong all around you.

Shropshire is a haven for wildlife, the meres and mosses support strange species like sundew – a tiny insect eating plant; Prees Heath Common hosts the silver-studded blue butterfly that needs both heather and ants in order to survive.  Brown Moss, one of the smaller meres, provides the perfect habitat for the rare nodding bur-marigold and is much loved by many species of water birds.  Dragonflies and damselflies make the meres, mosses, streams and canals their home and dart and flutter amidst the reeds and rushes.


Take a walk around Brown Moss in the early morning sunshine, relax for a moment, close your eyes, listen to the sound of birds twittering in the trees, ducks and geese spreading their wings or landing with a splash on the water.  And make the most of the September sunshine sparkling on dewdrops and spiders webs; soak up the warmth – before Will’o’the’Wisps bring the chill of Autumn and Winter arrives with Jack Frost.

Brown Moss is maintained and monitored by Shropshire Volunteer Rangers.  Volunteering is an excellent ways to get out of the house, meet people, get some exercise and be involved in the local community.  If you would like to help with things like keeping the paths clear or surveying the site they are always glad of any help – no experience, commitment or fitness necessary.  Contact [email protected]


Published in the September edition of the Whitchurch Gossip