Ordsall Allotments: #surprisingsalford #24

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Summer crops at the allotments

There haven’t always been allotments in Ordsall and it took a long community-led campaign and lots of work and planning to get them.  For some time the Ordsall Allotment Association had members but no allotments but eventually the allotments were completed and the site was officially opened in 2014.  The allotments have transformed an area of derelict land in the centre of Ordsall in to a green oasis.  The site was formerly part of the centre of the estate and the Jubilee pub, a post office, and library were cleared as part of the redevelopment of Ordsall.  The former St Clements School site on Robert Hall Street had originally been identified for the allotments after the school closed in 2007.

The 23 allotments have now matured after three years of growing and I always stop to peer through the fence when I pass and see what is growing on the plots and admire the neat rows of sheds and vegetables.

In September the allotment members have an annual show where they showcase their produce, celebrate their achievement and compete for the best vegetables.

 

Walking and camping around the Algarve

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The view from Foia, the highest point on the Algarve

We eventually reached the Algarve, the southern part of Portugal and although we did spend some time on the coast, we also explored the inland area of the Algarve and continued to find some good walking options, particularly in the Serra de Monchique, the wooded chain of hills in the south-western tip of Portugal.  The highest point of the Serra de Monchique is Foia at 902 metres above sea level.  This isn’t the prettiest summit, with telecommunication masts and a radar station dotted around the plateau but turn your back on the masts and it is a great viewpoint over the Algarve.  We wild camped here overnight and it is a peaceful spot once the cafe and gift shops have closed and we watched a spectacular sunset from our lofty spot.  At the summit there is an information board with details for the Trilho da Foia PR3 path which is 6.5 kms long and follows stone tracks beside well constructed terraces and ruined barns with shady stretches under chestnut and walnut trees.  The path winds steeply downhill, traverses along the road [and passes a couple of cafe stops] and ends with a knee-trembling climb back up to the summit.

The second highest summit in the Serra de Monchique is Picota at 774 metres high.  By contrast this is a more attractive summit than Foia with just a rickety look-out tower on the granite top.  The well-marked walk up to the hilltop is cool and shady through orange groves, cork oak and eucalyptus trees and is a perfect half-day excursion.  From the top the view across the town of Monchique to the wooded slopes of Foia is worth the climb.

We moved on to the lively and charming town of Silves, staying on one of the many aires in the town which has long been popular with motorhomers.  Here we followed a walk from the Sunflower Walking in the Algarve guide book that takes in the old windmill above the town.  This is an excellent view point back to Silves and its castle and over the green Arade river valley.

We don’t make repeat visits to many places when we are in continental Europe but we made an exception for Serpa and headed there as we moved back north away from the Algarve.  Serpa proved you can go back to places you love; I still think this small town in the Alentejo punches well above its weight.  The municipal campsite is very good, the local sheep’s cheese is sharp, fresh-tasting and excellent, the local pastries, Queijadas de Serpa are delicious and the pretty town has a relaxed atmosphere that easily detained us for a few days.

But our time in lovely Portugal is running out …

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The old windmill above Silves

Swinton cemetery: #surprisingsalford #23

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Swinton Cemetery in the sunshine

Wandering through the residential streets of Swinton in Salford on a sunny afternoon recently I stumbled across Swinton Cemetery.  The cemetery creates a beautiful square that is surrounded by housing.  The rows of graves are neatly arranged and the trees provide colour and shade.  There is a small red brick mortuary chapel within the cemetery.  This beautiful, peaceful and neat cemetery has been used for burials since 1886 and is still in use today.

Today the cemetery includes the re-interred remains of over 300 burials from the previous Unitarian Church in Swinton that was closed and demolished in 1985.  The burial ground land was undisturbed until 2013 when the land became part of a development for a new supermarket.  The development caused considerable concern locally.  The Unitarian burial ground included a war grave and the graves of three men who lost their lives in the Clifton Hall Colliery Disaster in 1885.

In his book From Salford to Tucson and Back Again, Robert Carter describes his childhood in Swinton in the 1960s and a character on his street who was the gravedigger at Swinton Cemetery.  This man always wore clogs that ‘clanked as he walked’ and owned a scary black dog that would walk a few yards behind the gravedigger often with a piece of meat in its jaws, apparently to tenderise the meat.

 

 

 

Walking in central Portugal top tips

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Near the highest point of the Serra da Estrela at 1,993 metres

The Serra da Estrela are another of Portugal’s inland secrets, although no secret to the Portuguese as they are known for Torre, Portugal’s highest mainland point.  You can drive up to Torre and it isn’t the most stunning mountain top but there are plenty of places in the Serra da Estrela to find excellent and peaceful walking.  Our campsite near Gouveia on the western slopes of the natural park was an idyllic spot and also well organised with a folder of instructions in English for twelve local walks [more than enough even for us].  We had a perfect day’s walking, firstly to the top of Gravanho with a distinctive white trig point and then on to Folgosinho, the second highest village in Portugal, a sleepy place on a hot Monday afternoon where the most activity was at the newly renovated communal wash house.  We didn’t meet any other walkers all day on the sandy tracks and cobbled paths through pine and chestnut trees as well as fig, apple and walnut trees.  Descending from Folgosinho we passed the remains of a tungsten mine.  Mining and selling this rare metal bought prosperity to the area during the first and second world wars.

After a few days walking from a small and comfortable campsite near Meruge where the campsite dogs who accompanied us on a walk helped us spot a mole and a day of culture in Coimbra we crossed the river Tejo [or Tagus] and headed towards the border with Spain.  The scenery changed, to rolling plains, straighter roads, fields of cattle and olive groves as far as the eye can see.  We found a perfect campsite a few kilometres outside the lovely town of Castelo de Vide and were almost overwhelmed by the information on local walks and attractions that the helpful owner loaned us during our stay [campsite owners note, this meant we stayed longer than intended].  From the site we followed medieval paths over the hill to Castelo de Vide where we walked between some of the town’s many fountains, sampling the water from each one.  This was a great area for bird watching and we spotted a little owl, griffon vultures, fire crest, black cap, sardinian warblers, blue rock thrushes and many others.

Portugal is a land of castles and these Spanish border towns all have their own.  In Castelo de Vide the stone walls enclose the old town of white-washed houses and you can climb up to the tower for the view, walking along the apex of a roof and climbing steps with no handrails.  This is the beautiful Parque Natural da Serra de Sao Marmede  and there is plenty to see.  Another superb day out started with a taxi ride to the picture postcard lofty village of Marvao and after exploring the village and inevitable castle we walked back along the old lanes.

Near the interesting town of Evora is the Almendres stone circle with 95 standing stones in two circles, one inside the other.  The circle is in a woodland clearing on a hillside with a view of Evora in the distance.  The 4 kms track to the stone circle is a fairly well-made sandy track but we decided to cycle to the stone circle, rather than drive the ‘van up the track.  The cycling was hot and dusty in the lunchtime temperatures of over 30C but arriving in this way gave us a better sense of the landscape the stone circle sits in than if we had driven in our air-conditioned van there.

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Looking down on the winding streets of Castelo de Vide from the castle tower

Being a good Ebay seller: My top tips

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Bags packed at the West Somerset Railway

I would certainly not claim to be the best Ebay seller there is but I have a lot of experience.  My current score on Ebay is 1,484 transactions and I have 100% positive feedback.  I have been an Ebay member since 2004 and 981 of these feedback ratings are for items I sold on to someone.  When we were down-sizing I sold all our surplus stuff on Ebay and when a relative died I sold the contents of their house, including a few hundred ornaments, 175 pictures, loads of furniture and a dozen tea sets on Ebay.

Friends have got to know about my expertise as an Ebay seller and occasionally I sell something for a friend and more often I have been asked for tips on how to be a successful seller, so here are my top tips:

Is it worth selling? – Ask yourself, is this something you would like to buy yourself, is it in good enough condition to sell, is it useful for parts or is it so unusual someone might just want it?  Just because you no longer want an item it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to someone else but check it for damage as disappointed buyers will leave negative feedback.

Photographs – Take time over your photographs, think about the background, the lighting and the arrangement.  This is your shop window and you should make it look as attractive as possible or as informative as possible.  With tech items it is worth photographing the detail, model numbers etc and if an item has some damage a clear photograph of this can help to show you are honest and sell the item.

Use the whole word-count in your item title – Ebay will tell you that items with longer titles sell better, so give as much information as you can fit in the title.  Make sure you include the size or model number, if relevant, in your title so that browsing buyers can pick yours out from the list.

Do your research – Find out how much the sort of items you are selling might sell for on Ebay by checking out the completed listings in the advanced search settings.  Sometimes things are listed at high prices but they never sell.  These completed listings will help inform where to start an auction or what price to ask.  Your research should also reveal as much as you can about an item.  When I started selling my relative’s ornaments I knew nothing about Italian figurines but I quickly learnt.  If you have receipts for an item these may provide additional detail.

Descriptions – Put in as much detail as you can in the description.  Always include actual measurements [I have lost count of how many Ebay sellers I have had to contact regarding the measurements of an item] but cover yourself by telling buyers these measurements are approximate.  Be honest about any damage on the item and don’t sell anything you wouldn’t want to buy yourself.  Tell buyers how old an item is and how much it has been used.  We sold our high quality back-packing tent on Ebay and although I said how much it had been used and how long we had owned it I still got a very good price for it.  I think it helps buyers to feel confident by telling them why you are selling; for example I might say I am having another clear out or a spring clean or I have lost weight and this item no longer fits me or that my interests have changed.  It is also helpful to tell potential buyers if your item is from a smoke and pet-free home.

Posting and packing – Consider whether an item can be posted or if it is only suitable for collection.  Home collection can be inconvenient for you [as you have to be in] and limits your number of buyers plus someone will always ask if you can post something to them.  If possible always offer a postage option but this will mean you need to ensure you have suitable packing materials and with delicate items you can’t skimp on these.  Make sure you check the postage cost as the Royal Mail charge on size as well as weight.  When I was selling the hundreds of fragile china ornaments we bought double-wall boxes, bubble wrap and packing chips in bulk and I packed each item with care, this packaging took time and cost money and was reflected in the packing charges.  Despite travelling across the world everything arrived in one piece.  At other times I keep packaging from parcels I receive and recycle these keeping costs down.  All that said, I offered many of the 175 pictures from the walls of my relatives home and some of the bric-a-brac as themed lots of around eight to ten pictures [all the cherub pictures, all the floral ones etc] and people collected these.  These lots were attractive to dealers and I arranged a number of collections on the same day and displayed other items I hadn’t listed on Ebay and managed to sell a number of these to buyers.  Buyers like free postage and packing and this can make sense for buy-it-now sales, although of course you have to add the cost of P&P in to your listed price.

Auction or Buy-it-Now – Ebay has got much smarter at recommending whether you should offer an item on buy-it-now or auction [although it isn’t always right].  In general I find that unusual technical or collector items are best as an auction as guessing the price these will reach can be difficult and they sometimes fetch more than you expected.  I often get asked if I will change an auction to buy-it-now and I am willing to do this if there are no bids and they are offering what seems a fair price.  I do often have to tell potential buyers that I am not prepared to end an item that someone is already bidding on just so that they can buy it immediately.  Also be aware; some buyers may ask for a buy-it-now option and then not actually buy it.  Buyers need to know that as soon as you have changed an auction to buy-it-now anyone can buy the item; sometimes buyers are not quick enough and miss out.  I have had good success with the best offer option on buy-it-now auctions.  I have accepted fair offers or suggested a counter offer when something has been listed for a few days and I can see there is little interest.

Length of your auction – This has to fit in with you, so that you can post an item as soon after it has been paid for as you can, but it also needs to reflect the type of item it is.  Something unusual is better left on for ten-days, for example the rare tank regiment drinking glasses I sold were not something that is offered on Ebay everyday and it took time for everyone interested to find them.  Other items are more common place and can be listed for just a few days.  Ending auction items during the day on weekdays can limit working buyers from bidding and ending auctions early on Sunday morning isn’t always wise but as you might be selling to people in different time-zones [see below] this is complicated.

Posting abroad – It is worth considering posting abroad for collectors and unusual items.  Many of the ornaments I sold in 2014 went to Russia but others went to Italy, the Netherlands, the USA and Australia; collectors of particular items can live anywhere.

Questions – I often get asked questions about an item and I strive to answer these as quickly as possible and as accurately as possible.  Sometimes these questions are about something that I should have included in the listing and I will then publish the question on the listing for other buyers to see.  Answering these questions clearly and efficiently demonstrates that you are a reliable Ebay seller and helps to give a buyer confidence in you.

Communication – I always write a personal post card and place it in each parcel I send to an Ebay buyer, I might tell them a story about the item they are buying or just express gratitude for their business and hope they enjoy using the item.  Many buyers appreciate this and mention it in my feedback.  Using Ebay’s messaging I also tell buyers that I have received their payment and when I am posting their item and the method of postage so that they know when to expect it.  I always post items when I say I will as reliability is important.  I leave feedback after I have posted an item and I politely ask buyers to consider leaving feedback for me.

Happy Ebay selling and I am sure I have missed all sorts of stuff out of these tips so if you have any questions just ask!