Thursday 29 April 2021

In The Garden

Over the past two years the local deer have 'dined out' on our flower filled garden urns. In late spring, just as the plants mature and flower, the deer arrive and completely demolish them. But how to defeat them? From what I have read there are very few plants that deer will not eat, but I did find two perennial plants, supposedly deer averse - Nepeta and Lupins, so we decided to give them a try.  We set off early one morning to a garden centre in the valley and found exactly what we wanted.  With time to spare we decided to take a walk along the nearby canal tow-path. 

There is something very peaceful about walking besides these gentle waterways, the bird song sounds clearer, the bees buzz seems louder, the banks strewn in wild flowers, and the occasional puttering noise as a boat glides past through the water.

Years ago the bridge keeper would have been busy all day long opening and closing this white swing bridge using a hand-cranked system, but today the bridge is motor powered. As boats travel towards the bridge, they trigger an alarm in the keeper's house which alerts him to press the bridge opening controls so that they can continue on their journey up the canal.

This marina now resembles 'barge city'. There were many more boats than I have ever seen there before. I did wonder if maybe some had been purchased during the Pandemic as a means of escaping safely into the freedom and tranquility of the countryside.

Time to return back home, fill the urns with new plants, and here's hoping they survive.

Saturday 24 April 2021

How to identify British bluebells from Spanish bluebells

Our woodlands are home to over 50% of the world's population of Hyacinthoides non-scripta - native bluebells, but do you know how to distinquish them from the imported Hyacinthoides hispanica - Spanish bluebell?  
The Spanish ones are far more vigorous than the native plants, which places our bluebells at risk. The Spanish flowers hybridise with them which then produce fertile plants showing a whole range of mixed features from each species. Overtime, hybridisation could change the genetic makeup of our native species, diluting its characteristics, weakening it and potentially evolving it into something else. The Spanish bluebell, was introduced into the UK by the Victorians as a garden plant, but it then escaped into the wild - it was first noted as growing 'over the garden wall' in 1909. It is likely that the escape occurred due to carefree disposal of bulbs and also as a result of pollination. Today, the Spanish bluebell can be found alongside our native bluebell in woodlands and along woodland edges, as well as on roadsides and in gardens. At a glance, native and Spanish bluebells could easily be dismissed as being the same, but a closer look reveals several recognisable differences between them.

Native bluebells - Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Deep blue, occasionally white, narrow tubular bell flowers with tips curled back.
Flowers on one side of stem.
Distinctly drooping stem which is coloured purple at the top.
Cream coloured pollen anthers to stamens.
A sweet scent.
Long narrow strap shaped leaves.
Spanish bluebells - Hyacinthoides hispanica 
Pale blue flowers often pink or white
Flowers all around the stem.
Conical open bell flowers. 
Straight pale green stems.
No scent.
Blue coloured pollen anthers to stamens.
long broad strap shaped leaves. 
This is a huge problem that the National Trust, and various other organisations are grappling with.

Tuesday 20 April 2021


 Last week finally felt like a new beginning; it was good. What a huge relief it is to hear that the death rate has fallen drastically day by day. There is still no room, however, for complacency, the flies in the ointment are those continually emerging variants. Essential shops have opened allowing me to have a much needed haircut, and we have foraged in our local wood for wild garlic leaves to make pesto. A lovely outing was enjoyed to Herefordshire, and also the previously mentioned trip to meet our son and his wife in Oxfordshire.

Online I had admired a light that I could use specifically for evening reading, but really wanted to view it in reality. Having acquainted myself with information about the most suitable lighting to use, I discovered that the important fact is to use a light that gives at least 450 lumens. I also wanted a 'warm' rather than a 'cold' light. The light above fitted the bill, the copper lining to the shade gives a lovely warm glow and the 6W LED bulb offers the correct number of lumens. It sits perfectly above the chair in which I like to read, so I am happy.                                        We enjoyed a lovely spring day out at a NT garden in Herefordshire. The garden, which is one of our favourites, sits alongside the R. Wye snaking its way through the countryside from mid-Wales until it meets up and joins the might R. Severn.

The garden has been left natural with a large variety of wildflowers to be seen throughout the whole year. 
The footpaths meander through large ancient trees which allow continual glimpses of the water lying far below.

Seventy species of birds have been spotted within the grounds - on the day of our visit, we sighted our first Swallows of this year arriving back for the summer from Africa, they swooped joyfully above our heads. There are otters in the river, and it is not uncommon to see a ballet of swans progressing gracefully along the water.

There are plenty of seats where you can rest awhile, just enjoy contemplating nature, or have a picnic.

The newly emerged weeping willow leaves formed a vibrant chartreuse curtain down by the riverside. 

There is just a hint of blue in this image, our native bluebells are beginning to open, so a visit to the woods is on the cards.  
We returned home refreshed and invigorated.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Ancient Meadows

Fritillaria 1915 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh 

"Art is the Flower. Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful — more lasting than life itself." Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Should you head out on a warm, dry day to a meadow speckled with wild flowers, take a moment to stand still and listen. The air will be filled with life - bird song, bees humming, crickets chirping. Enjoy seeing the butterflies sipping nectar and watch the rhythmic swaying of the flowers and grasses as they catch the gentle breezes. 

I had intended to visit the fritillary meadow mentioned on the previous post, but a couple of days ago we met up with our youngest son and his wife at Waterperry Gardens in Oxford for a picnic. The gardens have the R. Thame running along one side, a tributary of the R. Thames, and we discovered that they had a wild Snakes Head fritillary meadow. 

Fritillaries are not easy to photograph en masse - you need a drone or a good zoom lens, which I don't have.

The above fritillary is unusual - it was the only one we saw in the meadow - it appears to have hybridised.

The garden also has a large number of the pretty Pasque flowers which are also now a rare wild flower. However, they do grow well in this area as they love chalk and limestone grasslands. The Pasque flower is steeped in legend, it flowers at Easter, so is known as the 'anemone of 'Passion-tide'.


I loved this exceptionally tiny alpine daffodil - Narcissi Bulbocodium Conspicuous

We said our 'goodbyes' to our dear son and his wife.

Evening time was beckoning as we past through the small village of Bibury on our way back home, William Morris proclaimed it to be the most beautiful village in England. 

Saturday 10 April 2021

Fritillaria meleagris

Large clumps of Snakes Head Fritillaries have been gracing our garden over the past three weeks, but sadly they are now almost finished. 
Not too far away from home there is a large traditional hay meadow where an enormous number of fritillaries have yet to bloom. These particular plants represent 80% of the entire population of wild fritillaries to be found in Britain. Numbers in the meadow can vary each year but average over 500,000. They require floodplain meadow habitat to thrive, traditional hay meadow management, and periodic flooding. They are intolerant of grazing during the growing season, but receive an annual hay cut during mid-summer, which is then followed by grazing cows in September. 
Once there were similar hay meadows along much of the Upper Thames river area, but most have now been lost due to drainage, and modern agriculture methods.
The wild meadow fritillaries bloom far later than the cultivated ones in the garden, so I am hopeful that I may have a further opportunity to see more of these pretty flowers soon.

When light slants before the sunset, this is
The proper time to watch fritillaries.
They entered creeping; you go on your knees,
The flowers level with your eyes,
And catch the dapple of sunlight through the petals...

Anne Ridler 

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Easter Sunday

Current Government instructions state stay local, so local we remained. Next week, however, things will be different - a long awaited hair cut will be on the cards, a visit to a shop selling non-essentials - we badly need a good reading light, and we shall also be able to spread our wings and travel further away from home.

Easter Sunday dawned hot and sunny, so we packed a picnic, and headed out to walk along a local valley. 


Sherborne is a linear village extending for more than a mile through the Windrush valley besides a small river tributary to the River Windrush.

The river was used during the medieval period to wash the flocks of sheep belonging to the monks of Winchcombe Abbey.

The valley is home to Sherborne House, a large property which has been greatly changed and altered over the centuries. As far back as 1087 a property on the site was mentioned as being in the possession of the abbots of Winchcombe. 
During the 17th century part of the house was altered and redesigned by Inigo Jones. 
In the mid c20th the house was used as a private boarding school, but in the 1980s the stable block, the outbuildings and the whole of the house were converted into privately owned appartments.
Passing through the churchyard in search of the return woodland walk, the large number of cherubic Cotswold stone tombstones glowing in the bright sunlight caught our attention.
Finally some welcome shade, and a
place to rest,
and the road home, but not before passing
by the Hunting Lodge to Sherborne House, now owned by the NT. Currently it is closed to visitors until circumstances change.
To my eye it resembles a small Italian palazzo sitting here in the middle of the Cotswold countryside.

Saturday 3 April 2021

Parisian Moments......

......are for both young

and old. 
Parisian moments are golden votive candles glowing and flickering at twilight in Notre Dame.
Parisian moments are national flags hoisted and ready to do battle across the pond in Jardin du Luxembourg, and
being chic dressed in plastic.
 Parisian moments capture the lacey underside of the Eiffel Tower,
the elegant boulevard signs, but
the final Parisian moment belongs to Hector Guimard whose fabulous Art Nouveau Metro entrance gate will take us underground and home.
 black & white Image courtesy our eldest son - it was take on a footpath by the River Seine, close to where he and his family lived. Did you notice the sunlit heart that the ladies are walking towards?