Monday, 27 July 2015

What's in my walking rucksack

Jennifer Tulip walking in the Yorkshire Wolds

The 'what's in my bag' theme is particularly popular among beauty and fashion bloggers but I'm not the sort of girl who wants to know which make up mirror and lipstick brand fits neatly in to the pocket of a Louis Vuitton hand bag. I'm not really the sort of person to who wants to make sure I have the latest product to fit in with my piers. I'm a cheapskate and I'm just not interested.

However, what I LOVE to read about is the type of practical kit other people buy and use for outdoor activities such as festivals, camping and walking. Last year I wrote a post about what to take to a festival. You can read it here. I doesn't include the latest fashion trends but it does tell you what I wee in at night to avoid going to the stinky portaloos in the dark.

So, I thought I would share the things I pack into my day sack for a walk in the Yorkshire Wolds. I'll tell you now, I'm not a big spender and not so fussed about sporting the coolest outdoor brands. I tend to choose things that are low cost but will do their job well. I'm not particularly gadgety either (I leave that to my geeky partner, Dave) but I do get super excited about practical things that will make my walk comfortable.

Without further ado, here's what's in my walking rucksack:

Day rucksack

My day rucksack was bought in the Trespass shop about 4 years ago. It was in the sale and cost about £20. It's lasted very well and it's still in good condition. I love the wide, padded waste band to take some of the pressure off my back and onto my hips and it has enough space to fit everything in the list below. The only downside is the look of it. It makes the wearer look like a tortoise.

Jennifer Tulip eating a pack up on a walk

OS Map

It goes without saying really but an OS map is important on any walk if you aren't familiar with. I love OS maps; the feel of them, the look of them, the purpose of them. So much detail about every nook and cranny around you.

Waterproof jacket

Whatever the weather looks like when I set off, I will still always pack my waterproof. I recently got this super lightweight jacket from It scrunches up into a spall space and easily fits over my fleece top.

Jennifer Tulip in a waterproof jacket

Fleece jacket

I normally have my fleece jacket on rather than in my bag but I it's important I can strip some layers when I get too warm and fit them into my bag. My favourite fleece is from Trespass and cost around £20. Personally, I don't see the point in spending lots of money on a fleece. As long as it is thick and warm then it will do the job.

Head torch

Have you been on a walk that's taken just a bit longer than expected causing you to pretty much run in order to find your car before it gets so dark you can't see the footpath signs? Well, I did it just the once. Now I take my head torch on every long walk.

Toilet roll

When nature calls, you gotta go! I love peeing outside (yeah, I'm weird) because you get a great view and a few moments alone to appreciate nature from the eye level of a badger. I love natural stuff but using a doc leaf to wipe my lala isn't my idea of 'being at one with nature'. I stuff toilet roll sheets into one of my bag's pockets and keep a small sandwich bag to house the used tissue. The sandwich bag also comes in handy for any curiosities I find for my nature shelves, such as skulls.


Snoodes are THE BEST THING when caught out in the icy wind on top of a hill. I have two- a purple one with two layers- thin material and fleece- that matches all my purple gear. The other one is a super-cool (my only cool walking item) Buff from It has a really soft hood built in and is so cosy. Dave has a Buff too. He has a neck like a giraffe so it's important he covers it up to retain warmth. Here's a photo of us on Snowden earlier this year.

Jennifer Tulip and Dave Mackarill in their Buffs


A knife, tweezers, toothpick and saw all in one. Perfect for getting out splinters on the go and for carving oneself a walking stick to feel like Ray Mears.  A penknife is super practical in emergencies and, well, you're not a real outdoorsman/outdoorswoman if you don't have a penknife!(spell check says 'outdoorswoman' isn't a word- get into the equal world Mac!)


A godsend when that icy wind hits while you are studying a map. I searched for ages to find a pair I was happy with. I wanted gloves that are waterproof and windproof but don't have the bulk of ski gloves. Finally, I discovered these SealSkinz gloves while browsing an outdoors shop in Northumberland. I've written a review of them here.

Waterproof hat

Like gloves,  I searched for a while to find the perfect hat. One that is windproof, waterproof, covers my ears and is warm. This style is perfect. Well, not perfect if you want to look remotely attractive while walking, but otherwise it's ideal. Several brands offer hats in this style but they all cost around £30 unless you get a bargain in the sale. I got mine half price so was very happy. Here's a pic of me in the hat with Dave up on Cadair Idris in Snowdonia looking like models in a walking catalogue (not).


Want to look like a real hiker? Get ya gaiters on! These bad boys will keep your ankles and shins dry while you wade through mud and bog. We all took a direct route (got lost) on Kinder Scout while on the Outdoor Bloggers weekend earlier this year and ended up tackling the huge bog on top of the plateau. My gaiters worked wonders. Mine are just cheap ones so unfortunately my legs get clammy really quickly. Spending a bit more on breathable ones would be a wise investment.

Water proof trousers

Can you tell I have a fear of getting wet? Lot's of waterproof items in my bag. I used to have a pair of those cheap £10 over trousers that come in a little bag but they are horrid on long wet walks. They just make your legs sweat and overheat. I got these fab ones from Mountain Warehouse. They cost around £50, are breathable, and have poppers all the way up to the waistband making them easily to get on mid-walk as soon as the rains starts to fall. However, I still choose to take the rubbish pair on really short walks that are just a couple of hours long as they are lighter to carry and take up less space.

Flask and cup

Squatting behind a rock to shelter from the wind on top of a hill is made enjoyable by a hot cup of tea. We always take a flask of tea or hot chocolate for half way.

Pack up

If we are out for the day, or just over lunch, we take a pack up. Our typical pack up consists of sandwiches, salt and vinegar crisps, a chocolate bar and a pack of tangy sweets.

First aid kit

Boring but necessary. I normally get Dave to carry it. I keep blister plasters in the kit, too.


No, it's not make up, honestly! Lipgloss or vaseline gives great relief to lips made sore by the cold and wind. Annoying when my hair then stick to my face though.


I love birdwatching so binoculars are an essential but they also come in handy for scouting out footpath signs from a distance. Have you ever entered a field and cant see where the footpath goes? Straight on, parallel with the fence or diagonal? Binoculars allow you to see that bit further and can prevent marching in the wrong direction.


The temptation of a country pub is usually high for the typical hiker. Carry some pennies so you can treat yourself to a pint. We have a rule in our relationship- Dave will take me for a walk along as there is a pub at the end. Deal.

Those are my essentials for every walk. I hope you find the list helpful if you are a novice or look to take up walking and if you are a walker, I hope my list is comparable to yours.

Is there something in your bag that isn't on my list? I would love to know what. Leave me a comment as I would love to talk geeky walking stuff with you.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Meet Magnus the magpie

Jennifer Tulip and magpie

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter then you will have already been subjected to my inundation of Magnus the magpie-related posts.

Magnus was a helpless, boney chick with feather quills emerging from his pink skin when we took him in at about a week old. He was an eating and pooping machine living in a pretend nest made from the hood of Dave’s old hoodie inside a plant pot.

His feathers grew at an astonishing rate. I’ve raised many chicks over the years but each time I’m mesmerised by how fast they grow. The change, even between morning and evening was dramatic.

As a chick we fed him a varied picnic including boiled egg, ferret food, peas, mealworms, and earthworms. When he was in the nest his food was prepared into individual tupaweares lined up along the counter top next where his nest lived. Now he eats pretty much anything he can get his beak on.
tame magpie chick

After a couple of weeks Magnus left the nest and spent most of his time hopping around the front room or in a parrot cage where he slept. On a morning he would hop over the duvet, getting the hang of using his legs, as we sat drinking our cups of teas in bed. He had bursts of activity for about 10 minutes and then would settle down for a nap.

Once he could fly and land confidently, he moved into the large aviary measuring 8 x 6 meters which is filled with a few young trees, lots of branches for perches and natural ground flora. It gives him plenty of room to stretch his wings and explore. The aviary has a birdhouse attached to it so he has a warm and dry place to go if he chooses.

When we are outside he flies around free, but always under our watchful eyes. Farmers in the area catch and kill magpies so I’m extra carful he doesn’t wander too far. Boris, the rook I had a couple of years ago, suddenly disappeared one day. I like to think he met some other rooks and started a new life but it’s always in the back of my mind that he could have been shot. I try not to think about that possibility too much.

All members of the corvid family- magpies, jackdaws, jays, crows, rooks, ravens etc.- are highly intelligent. One study suggests they are more intelligent than the great Apes

The way Magnus explores and engages with everything shows how bright he is. He explores everything with his beak by carefully touching an object to test how it responds then starts pecking the object roughly to see what happens then. He can use his beak so delicately and accurately to open something up or move things around.

From a distance, the colours of the magpie can appear to be just back and white. Yet up close, the black feathers are iridescent, like oil floating on water. Just look at the beautiful colours of Magnus' feathers in the photo below of him sunbathing. When birds sunbathe they go into a trance-like state. It's rather hilarious.

Many people believe crows and their cousins are evil yet they get their bad name due to being inquisitive, clever and so deeply misunderstood. Old folk laws still live on, hundreds of years after the stories were first told. Some are true though- magpies do love shiny thing! All corvids do. We had a jackdaw that would collect shiny objects (and anything else he could get his beak on) and hide them in a bucket that was used as a shower in the caravan we lived in. Before each shower the bucket had to be emptied before it was filled with water. I've raised several corvids over the years, some of which you can read about in this post.

The name of this blog, The Thrifty Magpies Nest, was derived from my love for magpies and their reputation for collecting treasures, and now the blog has its very own mascot.

To conclude, I have written a little rhyme:

If you aren’t a fan of magpies,
then maybe I can convince you otherwise,
by showing you lots of photos,
and videos.
So follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,
for lots of Magnus spam.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

30 Days Wild: The last couple of weeks

Jennifer Tulip in a sleeping bag in wildflower meadow

Wow. The 30 days in June zoomed by. Collating these photos has allowed me to reflect on the last two weeks of June by provoking my mind to remember what I did each day. We have completed half of the calendar year already yet it feels just a a couple of months since I dragged the christmas tree (it's only a miniature specimen) and its pot out of the patio doors and considered where it should remain for the next twelve months in the wood. I can see the christmas tree from where I'm sitting on the deck writing this, with its slightly drained-looking leaves, presumably a result of the lack of water during this glorious weather. 

The days go so quickly -eat, sleep, work, repeat- and even with the long evenings (why they call them  long evenings, I'm not sure. We don't actually get any extra time), I have found it difficult to do something wild each day. On reflection I do actually do something wild each day. They just aren't things that will picture well or, at least, sound remotely interesting to you, the reader. 

So I confess to you, my readers, and The Wildlife Trusts. I have failed to do a Random Act Of Wildness each day for the thirty days of June. I consider myself a wild child (yes, I live in Never Never Land) and I live in the middle of a wood that's so far from any internet exchange we can only get 0.20mBs speed (another story for another day). 

Without further ado, here's my photo journal of my last Random Acts Of Wildness:

13. After a 5k run along country paths with my sister in the Yorkshire Wolds, I caught my breath in this beautiful field.  The barley rippled gently in the wind, creating wave-like movements. 

14. Insects are not my strong point. I'm not sure what species of bee this is. I should have got the guide book out while the bee was around as it's difficult to identify just from this photo. If you know what it is, it would be great if you could leave a comment at the end of this post.

15. I counted and photographed cuckoo spit

16. For about 10 minutes I gazed at this Ichneumon wasp as it investigated this recently sawn larch board. This specimen was about 6cm long. Their impressive ovipositors (that long tail) is used for injecting an egg into a grub living in wood.  The larvae will hatch and eat the grub from the inside-mmm. It's completely harmless despite its sting-like looking ovipositor. 

17.  My new Snugpak Softie Chrysalis sleeping bag from arrived in the post and I couldn't wait to try it out, so I did. I walked into a clearing in the wood where wildflowers grow and got in it. It was very snug. I could have easily slept right the if it wasn't for the insects getting in my ears and on my face. 

17. We spotted this beautiful display of lilies while on an evening dog walk

18. This spider was under a stacked larch board. She closely guarded her two egg sacks while I took a photo of her (from a distance). Spiders are pretty much the only animal I'm scared of. Thow me a scorpion, snake or mouse any day. Just not a spider because my heart will jump out of my throat. 

19. This one is a bit hard to make out. It was getting dark at the time. We dragged Dave's brother and best friend into 'the wild' by tempting them with the zipline. The zipline in the wood has slackened over the years and a fallen tree landed on the wire, stretching it, earlier in the year. The guys attempted to tighten the line but darkness set in. It kept them entertained for an hour or so though.

20. We took an evening dog walk along the Pocklington canal which was beautifully peaceful, apart from several chattering reed warblers which have a scratchy-sounding call.  This is a brick road bridge and in the background is a lock. I love canals and the concept of locks but I'm not keen on the locks. There's something erie about them; large, deep, unnatural rectangular boxes. I would hate to fall in one. Apparently someone died in this one some years ago. They can be dangerous places.

Jennifer Tulip and paddy lurcher dog walking

21. On Tuesday evening we visited Allerthorpe Common close to my home in East Yorkshire to look for adders. The lowland heath habitat is ideal for snakes and I hoped they would be basking in the glorious sun. However, we got there a bit too late and the sun was too low and the landscape was all in shadow. It was still an enjoyable walk and we spotted a good variety of flora along the way.

Twenty one out of thirty is a poor result but it goes to prove we all need to be proactive and plant to get out into the wild regularly.

For me, the wild makes me feel safe, sane, peaceful, relaxed and content.

How does the wild make you feel?

If you took part in #30daysWild I would love to hear from you. Follow me on Twitter here or comment below so we can chat :)

I better go water that Christmas tree.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

30 Days Wild: My first 12 random acts of wildness

This June, the Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for everyone to spend a little time enjoying something wild each day. 30 Days Wild has boomed across Social media with hundreds of people updating their daily Acts of Wildness.

Even though I spend a lot of time outside and I am lucky enough to have wilderness right on my doorstep, I’ve still needed to remind myself to do something wild each day. It’s brought home the fact that many children and adults don’t regularly have the opportunity to come into contact with nature. I can’t imagine a life without nature. Nature is a huge part of my life. In fact, it is my life. I love seeing the influx of social updates by people from all walks of life sharing their wild activities. If we can teach the children of today the importance of nature, then maybe these adults of tomorrow will fight to protect it.

This is a log of my first my first 12 'Random Acts of Wildness':

Jennifer Tulip smelling a flower

1. Smelt the wildflowers growing below the canopy in the wood.

Jennifer Tulip

2. Sat peacefully under the trees for 10 minutes, listening to the gentle hum of insects pollinating the wildflowers around me.

3. Caught the hornet that was flying around the house and dare myself to get as close as possible to her to take some photos.

Jew's ear fungus
4. Prodded some jelly-like jew’s ear fungus growing on a rotting stick.

5. Crept up to an open-fronted nest box to peak at the robin eggs nestled inside.

David MacKarill walking lurcher dog

6. Walked through a rape seed field which was full of beautiful wild poppies in the evening sun.

7. Visited the local nature reserve, North Cave Wetlands, to watch the abundance of bird life, including hundreds of black-headed gull, artic turns, shelduck, shovelers, and gadwall.

8. Filled my new Ring Pull bird feeder from Living with birds and put it out for the garden birds. I’m running a giveaway for one of them here.

9. Took a close up photo of a vibrant, flowering fox glove in the wood.

10. On the upturned root of a tree I discovered a mossy wrens nest.

11. Walked through the long, wet grass in my wellington boots.

hand reared magpie chick

12. We took in a baby magpie, now named Magnus, at around a week old. He’s now fully feathered and learning to fly (I’ll blog about him soon). We have hand reared several orphaned corvids (members of the crow family) over the years. I posted about them here.

So why only 12 Random Acts of Wildness when there have been 16 days in June? Well, here come the excuses- for three of the days I didn't do anything wild. Shock, I know! I was just simply too busy doing other things and didn't have time to dedicate to the challenge. For a moment, I thought about sticking some extra images in from May, but as well as being dishonest it would have been misleading. It proves that doing something wild everyday is difficult; even when you make the effort to plan wild moments into your everyday schedule, life can get in the way. It also proves that we need to make time for getting closer to nature, all the time, not just when this fantastic campaign from The Wildlife Trusts is running.

I'm going to make an extra special effort to do something wild everyday for the rest of the month, starting tonight!

Follow me on Instagram to see what I get up to 'in the wild'.

PS. If you are taking part in #30DaysWild please
 share your Twitter handle, Instagram URL 
or blog with me so I can follow you :)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Giveaway: Ring Pull bird feeder

The fantastic online garden bird food and accessories supplier, Living With Birds, is giving one of my lucky readers one of these fab Ring Pull seed bird feeders in this lovely mint colour, worth £22.95.

Jennifer Tulip and bird feeder

I love the ingenious ring pull design. The whole feeder comes apart with just a pull of the pin that runs down the centre of the feeder, making it super easy to clean. The fittings are made from rust proof metal and the overall design is impressively robust. The colour is a beautiful cottage-style mint which contrasts wonderfully against dark green foliage.

Ring pull bird feeder

I hung mine in the place of an old plastic feeder which looked cheap and tacky next to the stylish, high quality Ring Pull Feeder. Within minutes a marsh tit landed on it, which was quickly spooked away by a great tit that I managed to get a photo of. The birds are quite tolerant of us and I was stood just 2 meters away when I took the photo.

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Prize: 1 x 360mm Ring Pull Feeder in mint worth £22.95
Seed not included
Open to UK mainland addresses only
Closes Monday 22nd June
Winner picked from validated entries using Rafflecopter’s winner generator
Winner will be notified by email and will have 28 days to claim their prize
Living With Birds will post the feeder to the winner

Best of luck!