Jan 18 favourites – Torak, tea creatures, and my new chair

So, it’s time to talk about all the things that I have been enjoying this month. Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these things, or if you’ve written a similar post for January!

1. Haircare set

There are a number of Christmas presents in this list. The first is the Little Treats haircare set from Cowshed. I hadn’t tried any of their haircare products, and I liked these little minis because I got to try the cowlick shampoo, the saucy cow conditioner, and the wild cow shower gel. There’s a set for the body too, ideal if you want to try out some of the products without committing to full size. All Cowshed products are free from animal ingredients and the brand does not test on animals.

2. My new chair

I saw one of these chairs when visiting a friend and my Mum got me one for Christmas. The chair has no back, and you sit on it with your knees resting on a tilted cushion in front of you, so your legs bear part of your weight. The idea with the chair is that it is good for your posture because it makes you sit up straight. You shouldn’t sit on it all day, but I’ve put it at my desk next to my office chair and spend a couple of hours on there, mainly when I’m doing paperwork and not on video conferences with customers. My posture when I’m with customers tends to be ok because they can see me, but I do have a tendency to curl up on my office chair, sitting on my legs, and this new chair will make sure that I don’t do that!

3. L’Occitane bubble bath

I always have bubbles in the bath and a lot of the time go for my old favourite – Radox – but sometimes it’s nice to have a special treat! This lavender bubble bath from L’Occitane is lovely for when you want to rewind after a long day. It gives a generous amount of foam and if lavender isn’t your thing, they do different ones such as shea and verbena as well.

4. Bloggers!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know I did Blogmas last year. This meant I also followed a number of other people doing Blogmas, which meant we were all doing quite similar content because it was Christmas-related. Now the festivities are over, it’s interesting to see the other content that these bloggers are putting out, giving me plenty of other stuff to read!

5. Torak!

Do you know who Torak is? If you read my Let us howl post, you might, because in that post I introduced all the wolves at the wolf sanctuary near Reading. Earlier this month, Torak got out of his enclosure, it’s believed because his enclosure was damaged by the wind. I was worried for his safety as there was no guarantee that he’d be captured safely, especially not with the sensationalist headlines that some media outlets were using. In thee end, there was a happy ending and someone from the wolf sanctuary was able to slip a lead on him and walk him home. I hope this event will be used positively to educate people about wolves. He wasn’t out on the prowl looking for an unsuspecting child to snack on. He didn’t even help himself to lunch when he walked through a field of sheep. Some of the ideas about “big bad wolves” from our fairytales need to be challenged so that people understand wolves are of course wild animals that need to be respected, but not something to be pursued or hated. Game of Thrones and the dire wolves have helped, but there is still a way to go.

6. Tea creatures

Am I the only person who had never heard of a manatee? Well, I know what they are now because of a tea gift. If you like loose-leaf tea (my favourite is mango) and want something cute to sit on your cup, there is a whole range of rubber friends who can infuse your tea for you and make sure that none of the tea leaves get into your cup. I was given the manatee but since then I’ve bought him some friends – the hedgehog, the elephant, and the sloth! The idea is that you put the tea inside the creature, which comes in half. Fit it back together, hang it off the side of your mug by its leg hooks, and just lift it off when it’s brewed long enough. I usually set them to drain, then take them apart and empty them out when they’ve cooled down. They’re practical, but cute as well!

7. Cleanse and polish

I’m very late to the party with this, but for Christmas one of my friends got me the Liz Earle cleanse and polish kit. I can’t link to it, because it’s the festive one with orange extract, which I think I would actually prefer to the normal one. It’s a hot cloth cleanser, so you massage the cleanser on to your skin, then remove it, along with excess oil and dirt, with a muslin cloth that’s been soaked in warm water. I don’t usually use wash-off cleansers, but I like this in the bath!

8. Chocolate!

I was surprised and happy when, for the first time, some of my friends had the idea of using my blog as inspiration for what to buy me and I was given the Hotel Chocolat fruity treats and lemon drops that I’d been raving about in last year’s September favourites!

S’s grandma also thought of me when she saw this make-up set made out of chocolate! I think it’s the first time I’ve ever said “I’m going upstairs to eat my lipstick!” They were both kind thoughts!

9. Korres body milk

I have talked about this Korres pear and bergamot body milk before, but I was happy to get a sample size in a free beauty box from Amazon. These body milks are lovely they still moisturise the skin, but are lighter than body butters, and ideal for the summer – although I’ve already used up this sample!

The beauty sample box is usually £35, but if you spend £50 on selected beauty products from Amazon, it’s free. I know that sounds like a lot, but the two main drugstore websites are not very accessible to me as a screenreader user, and I get a lot of my standard bath, skincare, and haircare products directly from Amazon, because I don’t have accessibility issues there. So I got 8 sample products, some quite generous samples and more like travel-size products, for free! There’s only one that I won’t use – the mud mask – but everything else will be showing up in favourites or empties posts. I think that’s more fair than doing one post on the box because I want to test things out first rather than just give my first impressions.

But the body milk is great!

10. Cherries!

One final L’Occitane product for this month, and this was also something from a Christmas gift set. I am usually a bit careful with things that are described as floral, but this cherry blossom scent is more cherry than blossom! I actually got a mini that is smaller than this, but the one I got doesn’t seem to be available to buy individually.

So, what have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Blogmas day 16 – let us howl

Our visit to the Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading, whom we met there, and what we learned!

So, I’m going to break with the Christmas posts to tell you about what I did last night – because it’s cool, and also I’d like more people to find out about the Trust.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that S and I are interested in Wolves. I published the walking with wolves post earlier in the year. While I was researching that trip, I also discovered the UK wolf conservation Trust website, and last night, S and I went with some friends to their Howl Night!

The first part of the evening is a presentation about wolf communication. We learned about ways in which they communicate with other wolves using long-distance communication, such as howls, as well as other verbal forms of communications, such as barks, growls, whimpers, yips and woofs! We then went on to look at body language – the positioning of the ears, tail, and posture, as well as the eye contact. Real footage from the centre’s wolves was used to demonstrate points about what was happening and what the wolves were trying to communicate.

The centre is home to 10 wolves in four packs – two packs of 3 and two packs of 2. After the presentation had finished, we went outside to see, and howl with them!

The first pack we saw was my favourite – Mosi and Torak. Mosi is one of the older wolves at 11 years of age, but that didn’t stop her being the most vocal with her howls! She deposed her sister Mai as alpha female, which led to her sister being moved out of the enclosure when they were younger. She was eager to respond to us with howls and interested in her visitors! Torak is a tall and proud wolf with a handsome, masculine head and the most mournful howl that you have ever Heard! He was more aloof and stayed to the back of the large enclosure, but that didn’t stop him joining in with a howl!

The next pack we came across was the arctic wolves, Massak, Pukak and Sikko. Sikko is the only female in this pack, where she lives with her brothers. They were born during a severe snowstorm in Park Safari, Quebec, and abandoned by their mother, who got out of her den with one other pup, but didn’t accept these three back as they had been touched by humans, who revived them from severe hyperthermia. Pukak loves his food and sometimes paws at the fence in anticipation. Massak is the dominant male and often lets his brother and sister go to greet visitors first. All of these wolves have thick, white coats to protect them from freezing arctic temperatures.

The next pack we saw was Mai and Motomo. Mai was separated from the pack with her sister and now lives with Motomo, an unsocialised wolf from Devon. Though partially spayed now, Mai and Motomo had been getting on better than expected as, soon after they were put together, Mai was found to be pregnant. We saw their offspring in the next enclosure. Apparently Mai likes to howl to Motomo when she is away on a walk. Motomo was only hand-reared for two weeks of his life, so he can’t be handled by the volunteers as he is still very scared of humans.

In the last large enclosure are Mai and Motomo’s offspring, now 6 years old. They were very playful when we came up, chasing and growling at one another. Nuka is the dominant male and the most adopted wolf at the trust. He already knows which humans he doesn’t want to have around him! Tala is a very friendly and inquisitive wolf, who is often put in her place by her sister Tundra, the dominant wolf in the pack. Tala’s inquisitiveness sometimes leads to the destruction of things such as Christmas trees put in their enclosure for children’s events! Tundra is a wary wolf who is less likely to come and greet visitors. If her brother and sister do silly things like playing in the pond, Tundra just looks on and doesn’t join in.

The wolves are well-cared for and have plenty of space to run around. As well as looking after the wolves in its care, the trust also supports other projects to help wolves in other parts of the world – both in terms of caring for captive wolves and educating the local population. The centre is also involved in research projects to enable people to better understand these wonderful animals.

If you’d like to support the Wolf Conservation Trust, there are plenty of different ways for you to get involved. If you can get to Reading, there are Howl Nights or wolf walks throughout the year. You can also make a donation, adopt a wolf, give a child a junior membership, or buy a wide range of wolf merchandise from the store. I’d already got myself a pair of earrings and a necklace online, but last night I also came back with a mug, a keyring, another pair of earrings and a hoodie! All for a good cause, so that’s ok 😉

Are there any nature or conservation organisations that you like to support?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about the wolves. You can look for Unseen Beauty on Apple podcasts (previously known as iTunes), or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen to it here:

The calendars

Going back to Blogmas and the advent calendars- what was behind your door no. 16?

L’Occitane – this time it was another soap – the last of the 3!

M&S: this time I got a hair spray, which I won’t use, so that’s something for Mother Christmas!

We still haven’t finished our Christmas shopping, so you can guess what we’ll be doing later!

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November favourites – bloggers, body lotion, and bunny ears!

It’s not all products this time, but I’m sharing the things that I’ve enjoyed this month!

Well it’s November now and actually I’m already beginning to feel a bit festive! Perhaps that has something to do with buying snowman earrings and planning Blogmas content, but I always enjoy this time of year.

So these are my November favourites. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

The first thing I wanted to do is to mention the Blogs in Bloom group on Facebook. There are loads of blogging groups out there, and this one isn’t for you if you’re looking for some superficial follow for follow game. However it could be for you if you’re looking for a friendly and helpful group of bloggers who get to know each other and provide support through a number of activities throughout the week. You choose the people with whom you interact, but if you get involved in something, you need to give as well as take. Check it out if you’re interested.

One of the reasons I was particularly happy about finding this group is making some new blogger friends with whom I did a blogger swap box. You can find out more about that soon as we’re going to be talking about it at the same time on both blogs, but it was a really lovely opportunity to build a box for other people and see what they picked out for me!

I haven’t opened them yet of course, but I find the whole process of choosing advent calendars is really fun. So many brands are doing them now and I enjoy looking through to see what’s available. I’m really lucky this year as I have two – I had one and then my Mum got me one as well. They will be featured in Blogmas, so keep reading if you’re interested in which ones they are!

Skincare

One of the things on offer in the Latest in Beauty box was the pomegranate lotion from Weleda. previously the only thing I had tried from this brand was the skin food cream, which was ok, but didn’t wow me as it has some other bloggers. So I was really happy with this cream, which is a lightweight body lotion, which smells great, and apparently prevents the premature aging of the skin. I’m not loyal to body lotions and I like variety, so enjoyed trying this one out.

There’s going to be a whole post on serums in January. It all started when I was sent a sample of a really expensive one, which got me thinking about the fact that I don’t have any serums in my skincare regime. This then got me doing some research about why they are used and how they can help. I bought a couple of different ones to test for a blog post, and one that I’m really enjoying is the Nip+Fab Dragon’s blood fix serum which is said to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. I really don’t know where they get the names but this is my second product from Nip+Fab and I’m really impressed. There will be a more detailed review in the serums post, but if you’re looking for a serum for underneath your moisturiser, this is a good one to start with and it doesn’t break the bank!

After my grumble and moan a couple of months ago, I was really impressed with Lovelula this month. In fact, I’m keeping all the products for myself, which doesn’t usually happen. I was particularly happy to see another Madara product in there. This month we got the Madara eye cream. It’s a deeply hydrating eye cream that is worth more than we paid for the entire November box. I really rate this brand, and although I’m trying to use up a couple of other eye creams first, I couldn’t resist giving this one a try and was suitably impressed!

Perfume

When I was doing my 18 products for mango lovers post, I dug out some of my mango products and rediscovered my Victoria’s Secret mango body mist. I love this stuff – I spritz it in the morning and love the sweet mango scent that really does stay around for hours!

Wolves and owls

This is a present – given to me in time for when we put up the tree in December! It’s an Owl bauble made of glass, and it’s really tactile for anyone who can’t see the owl. His little ears stick up and you can feel his head, pointy nose, eyes, and feathers. I know he came from M&S. As a blind shopper, I hate their site with a passion, which is why there’s no link, but I’m sure you’ll still be able to find him online or in store.

I recently discovered that the wolf sanctuary near Reading has a store, and I got these lovely sitting Wolf earrings. They are well-made and what I enjoy is that the shape of the wolf is clear to feel. I don’t like earrings that just have a picture painted on with no tactile elements. With these, you can feel his head, howling snout, body, legs, and tail, and as well as some of the money going to the wolf sanctuary, I love jewellery where I can really appreciate the design too.

Haircare

I didn’t know where to put this one really, but I decided it could go here because this headband with bunny ears will protect my hair when I’m doing a face mask or having some home spa time. I think there are different ones in the range – I think there’s a mouse and a piggy one, but at the time of writing, the rabbit is sold out on the site. Still, hopefully there will be some left in store if you want to get one.

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September favourites – owls, fruity chocolates, and a new brush

This month’s favourites post includes owls, wolves, lemon chocolate buttons, fruity chocolates, grapefruit lip care and haircare!

I tried to be a bit more restrained with make-up and skincare purchases this month so that I could use up some of the stuff that I already have. I was pretty successful, although having a week off at the end of September meant a couple of trips to town, which involved buying things!

I won’t include some of the new purchases here because I haven’t had time to try them out, but these are some of the things that I enjoyed in September.

Hair care

I have already been raving about the Yes To Cucumber shampoo, so I decided to see whether the Yes to cucumber volumising conditioner lived up to standard. I was really pleased with it. It’s 280 ml, so a generous size, and it leaves my hair feeling soft and shiny, without smelling of chemicals, one of my pet peeves with conditioners! I would definitely get it again.

I’ve been using my trusty Denman brush for ages, but decided I wanted something different for when I’m blow-drying my hair. I heard that paddle brushes make drying long hair easier, so I got myself a Tangle Teezer blow styling smoothing tool. I’m not sure about the claim that the brush helps your hair to dry faster, but I think that having the rows of bristles more widely spaced helps if you want to get the tangles out of very long hair when you’re blow-drying it.

Skincare

I’ve got 3 things to mention this month in terms of skincare. The first is something I wanted to try because I’ve only just found out that eye roll-on creams are a thing. I like the idea because sometimes, with a cream, you can end up with more than you want, whereas here, you just roll it over the clean skin, the roller has a cooling effect, and there is no excess. I got the Garnier light Eye roll-on. The idea is that you apply in the morning or when your eyes feel tired. The massaging effect stimulates microcirculation around the eye area and helps to reduce puffiness or dark circles. I think this doesn’t replace a more nourishing eye cream in the evening, but first thing it’s a good way to help you feel more awake!

I’m sure I’ve already said on here how much I like the mango lip balm from Burt’s Bees. I didn’t need another lip balm, but I’ve got a good way through the mango one, so I decided to get the Grapefruit lip balm from them. I have a little stash of lip balms and butters to use up, but I have to say that the ones from Burt’s Bees are my favourite. Firstly they come in stick form, which makes them easier to apply on the go than the little pots. Secondly, they’re made from natural ingredients. Thirdly, they taste amazing – ok I know you’re not supposed to eat them, but who wants something that tastes disgusting on their lips? And fourthly, probably most importantly, they do the job and leave your lips feeling moisturised, but not sticky, for a long time. Yay for Burt’s Bees! I’m even happier that they do them in both grapefruit and mango!

I may come on to the main products in Lovelula’s September box, but today I want to talk about the ones that I’ve finished. We received four samples of Kimberly Sayer products (two cleansers and two night creams). Actually I used all of them, but they tend to do products for either dry and normal skin, or combination, oily and blemish-prone skin. The ones best suited to me were the gentle face cleanser and the restore anti-aging cream” The healing light night cream smelled delicious too. It was a bit too light for my dryer skin, but it was still a nice one-off because of the gorgeous tangerine scent!

I thought it was good that Lovelula included a range of samples, both in terms of the product and the skin-type. I didn’t manage to get 3 or 4 uses out of them as some people did, but it was the first time that I’ve tried anything from Kimberley Sayer, and that’s one of the things that I enjoy about Lovelula. I would definitely buy products from this range in the future.

Bath and shower

I’ve mentioned Patisserie De Bain before. I’m not so much of a bath melt kind of girl, but I discovered that they also do things like shower gels and hand creams. I’d already tried the lemon bon bon hand cream, so I decided to get the lemon bon bon shower gel as well. It’s definitely more of a product for the citrus lovers, but it’s slightly sweetened, and not as tart as showering yourself with real lemons! Who remembers lemon bon bons as a child?! As a citrus lover, this one is definitely up my street and I would get it again!

Dogs, owls and wolves

This section is a little random, but as I love dogs, owls, and wolves, pictures or models of them are likely to turn up in my favourites, so I put them all together!

I don’t have a link for this because it was a gift, but we were given an owl to put outside. I just know that he came from a garden centre! He is solar-powered, so he produces his own energy, and provides light in the evening – ideal to put on the table if you’re sitting outside on long, summer evenings. I won’t leave him out during the winter, but I like him firstly because he’s an owl, and secondly because he will never need new batteries as he produces his own energy.

The second thing is a Wolf hoodie that says “A direwolf is for life, not just for winter!” There are different sizes, and they are sized fairly, so you can buy your actual size (I’m always tempted to go one larger on Amazon because some shops are super stingy!) Anyway – as a Game of Thrones fan, I wanted to have this – I was however a bit sad that the wolves didn’t get more of a look-in in the last season. (For my international friends – it’s also a play on words because around Christmas time we get adverts saying “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” to try and stop people impulsively buying dogs as Christmas presents.)

Sweet treats

Who doesn’t love Hotel Chocolat?!

S and I were drawn in there when we were in town this week. He bought me a box of my favourite chocs from there – the exuberantly fruity box. It includes such delicious treats as raspberry, strawberry cheesecake, lime truffle, mango, passion fruit, apple strudel, and lemon cheesecake! They’re all gone! Sooo good, especially if you like your chocolate to be fruity.

On the way out, S also spotted something we hadn’t tried before – the lemon white tiddly pot! I think these are meant for children, but who cares! They are delicious little white chocolate drops with a drizzle of lemon oil! Adults like chocolate buttons too! They are quite lemony, so not for you if you like super-sweet treats, but I think they’re delicious! They don’t seem to be selling them any more, so I’ve had to remove the link.

The first time I ever tried lemon chocolate was in Sorrento, where everything seemed to be made with lemon. Lemon sweets, lemon pasta, lemon liqueur, and delicious slabs of lemon chocolate! I was glad to have found some more!

So what about you?

What did you enjoy in September? Have you tried any of these products? Have you written a favourites post? Let me know in the comments!

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March favourites

Hi everyone and welcome to my March favourites!

My first favourite is a beauty subscription box. You may remember from my previous review that I was not too impressed with the accessibility of Lovemebeauty. I decided to cancel that subscription and sign up for Latest in Beauty instead.

The first order comes with a make-up bag as you can see on the picture. Subsequent orders don’t, and I think this is better than getting a new bag every time as you do with Lovemebeauty. After all, how many make-up bags does a girl need? Anyway, you can choose 3 products for £9, 6 for £15 or 9 for £19. I started with 6, but I am a bit tempted to go to the next level. We’ll see. I certainly didn’t find it difficult to fill my basket. I’m not going to do separate posts for this, but the products will show up in my favourites and empties, and if you’re looking for a build-your-own box with a decent variety of products and an accessible site, I’d advise you to check this out. Another plus point is that new products are being added and rotated all the time, so there isn’t a massive scramble at the beginning of the month with the potential of losing out if you’re not quick enough.

Make-up

I’ve got a number of make-up products this month. First of all, I discovered via Youtube that Charlotte Tilbury makes cream shadows, so I decided that my first Charlotte Tilbury product should be one of them. I decided to go for eyes to mesmorise cream shadow in Jean and I was definitely not disappointed. This is a cream shadow that is more like a cream than a firm body butter, so it’s super-easy to apply, it doesn’t crease and it’s a nice addition to my cream shadow collection.

Next to some lipsticks. These are from different brands, but one thing they have in common is the moisturising effect – I hate lipsticks that dry your lips out and, where possible, I like to go for the satin or silk ones, or ones which say they add moisture.

People kept raving about the new Burt’s Bees lipsticks, so I decided to get myself one. I went for the Burt’s Bees Blush basin lipstick. It glides on nicely and comes in recyclable packaging with an indented honeycomb design on it, which makes it easy to identify!

Next is the Kat von Dee studded kiss lipstick which I got as a mini in a beauty box. I don’t have any other products from Kat von Dee, so I don’t know if they all have such creative packaging, but I love the unusual packaging on this and the lipstick has staying power!

My Makeup Forever face primer ran out, and getting hold of a new one was proving to be a pain – they don’t stock it in my local Debinems. However, I discovered the ELF hydrating face primer, which comes in a handy pump dispenser and is about half the price! I still like the Makeup Forever one, but the ELF one does the job just as well, so I see it as a bargain!

As I was happy with the primer, when I discovered that ELF were doing moisturising lipsticks, I decided to get one of those as well! I went for the red carpet one, which took a while to come as I think it came from the US, but was worth the wait.

Skincare

I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Body Shop mango range, but no. I have only just discovered the mango whip body lotion. It’s described as lightweight, but incredibly moisturising,and I would agree. I’m only just learning that some of the more lightweight milks and lotions can be as effective as the heavier butters because they absorb so well.

The first product that I got from Burt’s Bees was their intense hydration night cream. It was inspired by Clary sage, a plant which keeps its moisture, despite growing in a harsh environment where moisture is hard to come by. The Burt’s Bees range uses natural ingredients and I like this rich but non-greasy formula. One of my friends didn’t like the smell – I think it’s fine, it just smells like being outside in the nature in a non-floral kind of way!

One of the products in my first Latest in Beauty box was the Seychelles hand cream from the White Company. Now I understand what all the hype about the White Company is about! For me, hand creams have to smell good, have a good consistency (not oily or sticky) and produce good results (soft, smooth hands). This handcream ticks all three boxes and with its blend of almond oil and coconut among other things, it smells wonderful!

Food and drink

Seriously, who knew that cherry M&Ms were a thing? I didn’t – until a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never really been interested in M&Ms because I thought there were just the peanut ones – but cherry chocolate is soooo good! Seems that they have gone out of stock now though.

Owls, dogs and wolves

You know by now that I love wolves. I found this stirling silver howling wolf pendant on Amazon and decided to add it to my collection. The pendant is well-made and you can easily feel the wolf’s outline. The only thing is that this doesn’t come with a chain – I didn’t read it properly – so you’ll either need to find one at home or purchase one separately.

How about you?

Do you like any of these products? What are you enjoying this month? Have you tried out Latest in Beauty? Let me know in the comments!

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Walking with wolves

As you may have already noticed, I’m a big fan of wolves. I’ve always loved dogs, and my interest in wolves really came about through my partner, who had been interested in them long before I was.

I really think they get a raw deal – often portrayed as the big bad wolf, or bad guys in fairytales, which gives people the idea that they are something to be feared. They are definitely something to be respected, but rather than seeing them as the villain, as I started to read and find out more about them, I understood that there is a lot we can learn from their behaviour, ways of communicating and pack structures.

I wanted to do something with my partner that would allow us to learn more about these wonderful creatures. As the charities and organisations in the UK work with captive wolves, I began to wonder whether I would actually be able to touch one. The first place that I tried said that none of their wolves were accustomed enough to people for interaction to be possible, so I tried further afield and came across Wolfwatch UK, a non-profit organisation that works with displaced captive wolves. According to their website:

“Wolf Watch UK is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the rescue, welfare, and conservation of displaced wolves from captive situations across Europe. Aiming to set the standard for the care of captive wolves, and provide them with as close to natural a habitat as is possible. Whilst providing the opportunity to study, educate, and offer factual information to our visitors, allowing them to form their own opinions regarding this magnificent animal, and hopefully expel some of the myths and misconceptions that still exists around them.”

As visiting Wolfwatch would be quite a long drive, I organised a two-night stay in the cottage, a renovated barn close to the main house, and a private visit with two of the wolves. I was very excited. Initially it was going to be a surprise for my partner, but as it would involve him driving quite a long way, I let him in on it before we booked! I thought this would be better than just producing the postcode on the day and telling the sat nav to get us there.

Last Friday, , we drove to Wolfwatch and were greeted at the door by Tony, who runs the sanctuary, and his two very friendly dogs. After deerhound and spaniel hugs, we were shown to the cottage, where we would stay for the next two nights. It does have a kitchen with a fridge, hob, and microwave, so you could cook there if you wanted. We just bought snacks for lunchtime and went out to a local town for our evening meals.

The cottage is surrounded by beautiful hills and countryside and it’s an ideal place to get away from it all. If you’re lucky, you hear the wolves howling. I made this recording whilst leaning as far as I could out of an upstairs window, so the birds and background noise are quite loud, but I didn’t want to miss the howls all together by running downstairs to go outside! I think this is Anja howling:

https://englishwithkirsty.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/anja.mp3

On Saturday morning, we met Tony, and Helen, who also works at Wolfwatch, and went to the enclose where Madadh and Kgosi live. They are Canadian wolves, brother and sister, and both in their senior years. I had already adopted Madadh on the website (see below for ways that you can help the wolves), and I was very keen to meet her. There was also a special link with visual impairment, because as Kgosi lost his sight, Madadh helped him out, both in terms of getting around the enclosure and finding food. So in a way, she was his guide wolf, and later that day, she became mine, too.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went in (apart from a lot of mud because it had been raining!) I didn’t know how big they would be, what their fur would be like, how keen they would be on interacting with people or how they would respond to us. I imagined them to be something like very big German Shepherds, which wasn’t far wrong, but as they live outside and still had their thick winter coats, it wasn’t like the German Shepherd coats I’d felt before. I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to get so clos to what, despite the familiarity with people that these two wolves have developed after being hand-reared as puppies, is still a wild animal.

Madadh (also known as Maddy) was the first to the gate and she was definitely interested in the dog kibble that we’d brought for her. The first part I felt of her was the big, gentle snout coming in for the biscuits. I was amazed how gently she took them. She then allowed me to stroke her head, her pointy ears, her silky (if a bit wet) coat, and to feel the length of her body. After she had sussed us out, her brother Kgosi came to join us as well. He is much bigger, like a stately old man, and he too was partial to the scooby snacks! He let me touch his strong body, his massive paws and his thick, powerful tail. If he dropped a snack, Maddy was quick to help tidy up!

We spent the next hour or so with them – walking around their enclosure, taking photos, giving them treats and learning about their history, their lives and about the other wolves who live at Wolfwatch. Kgosi couldn’t see the treats, but his keen sense of smell didn’t let him down. He usually allows his sister to go and check out new sights and sounds, but if she needs him, he is ready to defend her.

Madadh is accustomed to being on a lead when she needs to be moved somewhere, and when we took her into the field, I held her lead and she led me along. The sighted members of the party were there to make sure that she didn’t guide mi into the lake, but there was something magical about being guided along by a wolf!

I felt a sense of awe that these powerful, independent animals had developed such trust for Tony, and as we came in with him, they accepted us as well. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to get close to these fascinating creatures.

As I was lying in bed on the morning that we left, I woke to the sounds of howls. I was in no state to be leaning out of windows, so I just stayed there and listened. Du to the direction of the howls, it was unlikely to be Maddy and Kgosi, but even though the other wolves are not socialized and would not welcome us in their enclosures, mainly due to less than positive experiences with humans, they still need our help.

What can you do to help?

There are a number of ways that you can help wolves like Maddy and Kgosi. Buying any of the products on the Wolfwatch website supports the wolves directly – they need to be fed, vet bills need to be paid and their enclosures need to be kept in good condition. Things that you can do include arranging a visit, as we did, adopting a wolf, which gives you access to additional information and resources on the website, visiting the cottage, or gifting membership to someone else. If you can’t afford to do any of these things, you can still learn about them, or share social media updates from organisations that help wolves, and in doing so convey the message that they are not some terrible enemy to be feared, but a smart and intelligent wild animal that deserves our help and respect.

Some of the stories I have heard about the conditions in which wolves have been kept are truly awful. Despite the similarities to dogs, they are not pets. They are not dogs. They are wild animals and need to be kept in an environment that is appropriate for them.

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Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty

Skansen – a place worth visiting if you’re in Stockholm

I may have mentioned before that when we go away, I do the research and make a list of things for us to do, we decide what sounds interesting, then my partner works out the logistics of getting there.

Last year we spent a few days in Stockholm. We’re not really the typical tourists who go from one museum to the next, but I was first drawn to the idea of visiting Skansen because I read that there were wolves there, and we both love wolves.

Wolves at Skansen
Wolves!

Skansen is an open-air museum and zoo that is situated on the island of Djurgarden, near Stockholm.

You can see a variety of wild and domestic animals there, as well as a range of buildings, mostly from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. The buildings were moved to the museum from other parts of Sweden and show how things changed in terms of the architecture.

The wild animals have plenty of space to move around and get away from screaming children and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see wolves, wolverines, lynx, reindeer, moose, bison, grey seals and bears.

It is a great place for a family day out – there are pony rides for children and I imagine that children who love animals would get a lot out of it. I just wish that some parents would not just see it as a wide open space where the kids can let off steam, (there’s a playground for that), but instead that this is the animals’ home, the people are visitors, and as a guest in someone else’s home, there are rules you should follow, such as showing them some respect and not doing things that would potentially distress or scare them.

They are wild animals, so of course there are barriers to separate them from the people, but I was pleased that they had a lot of space and it wasn’t what you might think of when you hear the word zoo.

We wanted to see all of the animals, but we were particularly happy to see the wolves. I don’t understand people who go to nature reserves and complain about not seeing the animals because they were hibernating or asleep – I see it as a bonus if you do catch a glimpse of them, not a tourist right!

As we were walking around one of the traditional farm houses, someone who worked there produced a Braille floor plan of the house. I think they were glad to have found someone who could read it, and they took some time explaining to us what life was like, what the rooms were used for and something about the tasks that the people living on the farm would have done.

You can also visit a replica of a 19th century town and find out what life would have been like there for the farmers, craftsmen and traders. There is also a Sami camp, where you can learn more about the Sami culture and way of life.

If you’re in Stockholm, I would definitely recommend this as a place worth visiting. WE spent the whole day there. Be aware that most things are outdoors, so for the best experience, try to choose a day when it’s not raining! You can buy food on site, and also pay a visit to the gift shop before you leave. I came out with a plush wolf to add to my growing collection!

How about you?

Have you been to Skansen? Do you have any more recommendations for things to do or see in Stockholm?

If you like wolves as much as we do, make sure you don’t miss next week’s post which will be all about wolves in the UK.

Never miss another post!

Podcast

Unseen Beauty is also available as a podcast. If you want to listen to it, you can find it on iTunes or Player FM.

The URL for the podcast feed is
https://player.fm/series/unseen-beauty