Hello again! Sorry for the very protracted break but pressure of work meant the garden has been neglected for an exceptionally long time. Nor have I done any wildlife conservation work since 2012. Consequently this blog has been rather put on the back burner of late but I do now intend to make amends.
I am slowly beginning to get on top of all the greenhouse potting, partly be reducing the number of plants – more of this anon – but the garden itself has gone extremely wild! The photographs illustrate what was originally intended to be a wild garden but I which I had planned to turn into an area for fruit; despite there being two gooseberries hidden among the alkanet I think the wild garden concept has probably won!
Wild garden turned into fruit garden turned into wild garden!
I was waiting at the bus stop after visiting my father this morning and a red kite sailed over my head. I have seen one or two patrolling the tiny village in the past but this was the closest it had got – unfortunately it looks very small in a hurried smartphone photograph.
They must be in the top ten of the most majestic sights to be seen in the English countryside – the phrase poetry in motion being completely accurate in this case.
I walked to and from town last week and on the return journey I was very surprised to see a Goldcrest in the bushes by the side of the road. It was probably a female as males have a more orange crest. This is the UK’s smallest bird and although not actually rare, in fact the native population is boosted in the winter months by birds from the continent, it is more often found in coniferous woodland than beside the busiest road in town. She was busy searching for small spiders and insects among the bare branches. This sighting really made my day and I wish I had managed to take better photos with my phone.
I was walking the dog along a sheltered path by the railway line on Sunday and saw quite a few Brimstone butterflies. I think this means Spring has finally arrived folks! Having said that in a normal year you can often see an occasional Brimstone on the wing in late February or early March in Southern England – however this is not a normal year and the sight of so many on the wing cheered me up no end. Typically I never had my smartphone with me – although I didn’t really feel energetic enough to run after them for a good shot anyway! They appeared to be all males: the males have yellow wings, hence the name, while the females are off white. It is believed, realistically I think, that the word butterfly is derived from the males of this species
Our Forsythia bush began to open its buds over a week ago and I notice plants all over town are well out now. Although it is depressing in a way I quite like it when the flowers begin to fade as by then the leaves are showing and the combination of pale green and warm yellow is very attractive.
Forsythia on a bank
Incidentally, my wife’s front border which I photographed a bit earlier is looking even prettier now after the rain at the weekend. However in our large garden at the back of the house the weeds are growing alarmingly fast for the same reason. I am not sure when I will get round to attending to them as I have to clean out the fish pond over the weekend and I really must start potting. The turtles do eat the dandelions but unfortunately not in suitable quantities! The rabbit only eats the flowers – we have the fussiest rabbit on the planet!
I took this photo moments before the image of cornfield poppies in my previous post. It is called Windmill Hill. I have always assumed that the ring of trees on the mound at the top indicate the place where the actual windmill stood but I have never delved into the history of the place. It is patently long gone.
One of the botanical groups I used to belong to when living in Wiltshire organised several field trips to the site but sadly I never attended. The flora is apparently quite interesting.
For those familiar with my landscape paintings I have portrayed Windmill Hill a number of times (albeit in a modern art idiom) but always from the Collingbourne Road on the other side. I have also painted the hill on the opposite side of the valley (Sidbury Hill) which has an iron age hill fort on top. I have managed to attend field trips on this latter site (including a none too successful one listening to nightingales – or not listening to nightingales as it turned out!) plus worked there on many occasions clearing scrub. It is extremely evocative as you stand on the crest waiting for the bonfires to burn down and watching the dusk descend across the plain below.
Anyway that is enough of that; hopefully there will be a horticultural post next time!
The May (Hawthorn) is well out now. I took this photograph last week. For me this is the most evocative native shrub; the pungent scent of its open flowers never failing to take me back to my childhood in a remote village in Wiltshire (England). There was very little home work in those days (early Sixties) and the children would be out playing in the fields and hedgerows almost immediately after getting home from school.
The task at Little Durnford in 2009 was dedicated to removing tree seedlings from the important hillside grassland. This ranks along with ragwort pulling as a severely boring job – although the views across the Avon valley made up for this. The seedlings were mainly ash and there were thousands of them! The reserve is owned by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and is actually grazed by Jacob’s sheep and also (I think) cattle but obviously they needed a hand!
These photos and the ones done a year earlier at the same reserve are my only record of the hundreds of conservation tasks I did from 1990. I wouldn’t have taken these except I was by then a proud owner of a mobile phone with a camera – now replaced with a smart phone which is even more flexible. I do wish smart phones and blogs were around earlier!