In the absence of any serious walking I often pop up in the car to the small reservoir at the top of Longridge. There are a pair of Great Crested Grebes usually in evidence, diving into the depths. They apparently have a splendid mating dance but so far have not displayed it to me.
But today who should wander into my garden but this splendid Garganey drake. A rare visitor indeed.
Most days I see a Sparrow Hawk flying through my garden scattering the smaller birds and sometimes disappearing with a tit or sparrow. Yesterday as if on cue, it was Hen Harrier Day celebrating our raptors – https://www.henharrierday.uk/ I noticed out of the corner of my eye a pile of feathers on the lawn and a Sparrow Hawk devouring its prey. I hastily gathered my phone and took a few shots through the kitchen window and then it was away. The feathers, there was nothing else left, were possibly from one of the collared doves that frequent the garden.
Longridge is being built up with many green spaces, hedges and trees disappearing. This will have a marked effect upon the local wildlife. Within a couple of weeks, as well as the usual birdlife I’ve watched a hedgehog walking across the lawn and now a Sparrow Hawk. I wonder for how much longer will I witness these events?
Today or was it yesterday, accompanied by the appropriate fanfares, a space mission has been launched from Cape Canaveral due to reach Mars in February 2021. Onboard is the Perseverance Rover.
According to NASA, the Perseverance Rover has four objectives supporting the program’s science goals:
Looking for Habitability:
Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life
Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface
Preparing for Humans:
Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere
That all sounds wonderful and I’m the first to support scientific research to help mankind into the next century and beyond. None of us knows where these experiments may lead.
However, we may not get the results until halfway through the present century. The cost is billions.
So let us not lose sight of the fact we are in the middle of a viral pandemic which may yet destroy our civilisation. Earth is, again let’s not forget, experiencing global climate changes threatening to destroy our civilisation. Where is the resolve and expediency to solve those two problems? Politically we have failed to heed the medical evidence for the former and internationally we have all but given up, despite the diminutive Greta Thunberg, on the latter. Depressing thoughts I know.
So today’s news of the Mars probe doesn’t fill me with joy as it should. I’m not certain how the possible advances in science in 40 to 50 years will bring us back from the present catastrophe of our own making.
This morning a hedgehog wandered across my lawn, the first I’ve seen this year. Apparently, they are in serious decline. If we can’t protect this wonderful creature what is the point of going to Mars.
So I’d like to re-phrase that question. Is there life on earth?
And obliviously I can’t resist the girl with mousy hair – but maybe we will never know.
I have become somewhat dilatory on the walking front despite the fact that we are allowed out more. There is nothing to stop me from driving up to Langdale and climbing the Pikes. Nothing that is except common sense. I posted a few days ago a piece from the Coniston MRT advising against fellwalking at the moment. I think I’ve become disorientated by the confusing Governments announcements giving us greater freedom and others telling us to stay at home. The death rates seem to be staying high so stay at home is the obvious choice.
At the back of my garden 40years ago I planted trees to give shelter and some privacy, They have grown to 30 or 40ft and need their crowns taking out before they grow any bigger.
Now is the time. Actually, it isn’t the best while the trees are in leaf but there you go.
Out come the ladders and the bow saw. I’m very much aware of not having an accident in these lockdown times so I securely fix my ladders, top and bottom. My climbing harness is brought into action to prevent any tumbles from a great height.
The trees have lost some limbs but suffice to say I’m typing this with all my limbs intact.
After a couple of days sawing and pruning, shredding and logging I’ve spread a decent amount of wood chippings as a mulch on my flower beds and have a nice pile of logs for my log burner next winter.
Following on from Woody Herman’s rendition above [was Woody a common factor?] another old favourite tune came to mind – Woodman Spare That Tree sang by Phil Harris, a regular on Saturday morning’s Uncle Mac’s Favourites on the radio’s Light Programme back in the ’50s. Uncle Mac would play tunes requested by children who were thrilled if their name was read out on the radio – he never played any of mine.
I’ve just found out that the above quirky tune was based on an original poem by George Pope Morris, 1802-64. Set to music in 1837 by Henry Russell. It is one of the earliest known songs to champion a social cause, in this case, the preservation of nature.
Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
‘Twas my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy ax shall harm it not.
That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o’er land and sea—
And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
Cut not its earth-bound ties;
Oh, spare that agèd oak
Now towering to the skies!
When but an idle boy,
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here, too, my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
My father pressed my hand—
Forgive this foolish tear,
But let that old oak stand.
My heart-strings round thee cling,
Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I’ve a hand to save,
Thy ax shall harm it not.
I despair at the trees cut down in our village to make way for developments. I hope that the pruning I’ve done the last few days will ensure my mature trees will survive for many more years long after I’ve gone.
I’m forever extolling the fortunate privilege of having a garden to relax in during this Covid-19 lockdown. The last month has seen record sunshine and being outside without risk of encountering the virus has been a bonus, despite the extra work I’ve found for myself.
As the weather is changing I’ll probably be busy inside the house so here are a few pictures as I wander around the garden. In 2017 I posted a month by month view of my garden but as you can see April is one of the most colourful and promising months of the year. Award yourself a prize if you can correctly identify them all…
and I can’t resist a couple of good sunsets…
All that without leaving the house, I’m so lucky compared to many..
The weather is set fair for the weekend, the days are lengthening and I would normally be off on some long-distance path around this date. My long time friend Mel and I often choose March/April for one of our sorties which we have been doing for over the last 20 years. [more of Mel in a later post]
I feel the urge for an overnight camping trip somewhere.
Why start a post on backpacking with a tray of eggs? I certainly wasn’t going to take them with me…
It’s great sorting through my camping gear, the smell and the touch bring back memories of trips both at home and abroad. I’ve several backpacking tents, all a little dated now. My favourite for lightweight trips is my solo Saunders Jetpacker. I only use the outer and pitch it with my trekking poles which saves a load of weight. I’ve never bothered with Thermarest type inflatable sleeping pads as I’m happy sleeping on a short piece of foam. The temperature at night isn’t much less than 10 degrees so my three-season ME Dew Line should be warm enough. As I don’t use the inner tent I pack a very lightweight bivi sac to protect my sleeping bag and give a little extra warmth.
I can’t find any gas cartridges for my stove so I decided to eat supper before I go. I’m only out one night and cold muesli will be fine in the morning. As I’d had 3 dozen eggs, pictured above, delivered this morning I make a Spanish Omelette, tortilla, for supper. It is very filling therefore I’ll freeze the remaining slices. For afters, I have a slice of the pear crumble I made last night from a surfeit of fruit, delicious. So more pictures of food which is becoming an obsession in this lockdown.
Pear crumble – fast disappearing.
Well fortified I set off from home with what was a very light rucksack, Golite in fact. I need to find somewhere out of sight and off the beaten track to pitch my tent and fortunately I found such a spot with plenty of light left. All seems well with the tent and I have it up in about 5minutes. I settle in with a crossword as darkness quickly falls, a couple of owls hoot and then all becomes silent.
There is a heavy dew in the night but I stay snug and dry. A far off cockerel heralds the day rather early, about 4am, and the general bird song starts an hour later. I then fall asleep again until seven-thirty. I skip breakfast, pack the wet tent and head back to my house before anyone is about.
This has only been a short taste of backpacking but it has broken some of the monotony of the lockdown and brought back memories of more dramatic camps throughout the world. I’m rather pleased that a simple night under ‘canvas’ can still give such pleasure. I may even attempt a two-night trip next week.
There is no map of my short walk as I need to keep the camping spot a secret to use again.
I don’t think I’m going to be very good at this. I don’t have a regular routine at the best of times – get up when I feel like it, eat at odd hours, read and listen to the radio through a lot of the night. Should I keep to my non-routine or change to the ones recommended everywhere at the moment? The best I’ve seen was a video from an ex submarine captain who was used to months underwater in very confined conditions. Worth a look…
It may work for you but a couple of weeks in and I haven’t changed so it looks likely that I’ll plod on as I am.
I wake at maybe 8 o’clock, come downstairs to make coffee and feed the cat. Now I have an extra job – bring in the milk from the doorstep and wash the bottles in soapy water. Don’t believe I’m writing this, what hope for people with OCD? My hands are already getting chapped with all this soapy water washing. I never thought when I started this humble blog site about rock climbing and walking that I would be posting a picture of milk bottles.
I take my coffee back to bed and have a look at what’s happening in the world and in my Emails on the computer. I get distracted by some climbing videos on youtube, you know how it is. One often links into another and another, better make another coffee.
Once up and about I go into the garden. I’m slowly working my way around the beds weeding and clearing up. I tend to do about 2-3 hours until my back has had enough, there are plenty of days left for more. I’ve a good selection of all the common weeds as well as some plants I introduced and wish I hadn’t. This is the first year for a while to have the time to do a thorough job and try and catch the weeds before they become established.
Bittercress. Seeds early and everywhere.
Cleavers. Sticks to everything.
Dandelion. Deep tap root, worse in lawns.
…Herb Bennet, Nettle, Buttercup, Rosebay Willowherb, Chickweed, Ivy, Bramble – the list goes on.
Plants I introduced by mistake…
Dog Violet. Tenacious little b…..
Cuckoo Pint. Bulblets and seeds proliferate out of control.
Welsh Poppy. Orange variety has a deep taproot.
Yellow Variegated Dead Nettle. I wish it was dead, suckers everywhere. I was a sucker to plant it.
And then there is my lawn in amongst the moss. Need to buy some lawn sand, I will have to look online.
Lawn in my moss.
I could write a whole post on weeds, I almost have. When is a weed a flower? Catch them early before they flower. They’ll all be back tomorrow.
The cherry blossom I pictured in my last post a week ago is shedding petals like snow in today’s breeze, it’s such a shame they only last a short time, rather sad really.
The fields opposite my house are earmarked for development and in the last few weeks the bulldozers have been in and stripped the hedges and destroyed most of the trees. They had started on the drainage and access roads but now the site is closed down leaving the whole place in a mess. I used to see deer and hares in those fields and the hedges were full of birds, what now for wildlife? Anyhow, I’m straying off the subject but this has prompted me to build a few more bird nest boxes which are now in place around my garden. The sound of bird song is very noticeable this spring as there is little traffic noise.
The day passes quickly and cooking my evening meal is something to look forward to. Normally I shop up in the village every day and buy what takes my fancy for that evening’s meal. That’s all changed of course and now I delve into my store cupboard for inspiration, tonight I used rice and lentils to make dal bhat. Dal bhat is a traditional popular meal from Nepal consisting of rice and spiced lentils. It is a staple food in these countries so as I have a good supply of rice and lentils I should be able to see out many weeks of isolation. I learnt to cook it fairly authentically whilst travelling in Nepal and I still have some spices bought there which are difficult to get in the UK.
What I’ll miss most are fresh fruit and vegetables. I’ve tried to book supermarket deliveries but all the slots are taken so I’ve turned to a local fruit and vegetable firm who normally supply to the catering trade. I’ve just phoned them and they couldn’t have been more helpful, I’ve a box being delivered tomorrow. Maybe picture then and give a plug if they are up to scratch.
The evening is passed with maybe an hour trying one of the cryptic crosswords from my bumper book of TheTimes Crosswords. Then tonight I’m going to watch some films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Every year they normally host an adventure film festival and the organisers have selected a series of films to view free every Wednesday throughout this isolation period. Very good of them, thank you, my own little film festival – I’d get out the popcorn if I had any! Fell asleep halfway through the last film – just like the real cinema.
Times moved on quickly and I don’t have much to show for it. That just about sums up my day. So don’t take any advice from me regarding isolation strategies as I don’t really have any except…
It’s a wonderful time of the year with some exceptional weather, the blossoms are appearing and we’ve just gone onto British Summertime which I always look upon as a turning point.
My cat manages to sleep from dawn to dusk finding warm sunshine throughout the day. I’m jealous.
Last week I was going out for short walks from home Social Distancing as I went. Then this week I developed a sore throat, fever and headaches; I’m sure, or almost sure, that this isn’t the coronavirus but the rules say if you have symptoms then Self Isolation is necessary for 7 days.
That’s no great hardship as I’m pretty self-reliant but I think I misread the rules and thought I was not to leave my house at all [that is Shielding – we all have to get accustomed to these new terms] So I’ve stopped going out altogether which is probably wise in any case. Hence no walking in this post.
I’m fine for food and medicines and have been pleasantly surprised by the offers of help in that direction. Thanks to those concerned.
My telephone line has never been so busy as I catch up with friends near and far.
And there is the bonus of a new friend who is almost hand tame after a couple of days gardening. On a larger scale, the night skies have been clear with a bright crescent moon and an even brighter Venus.
Well I made it through the year with my garden diary.
Today is the winter solstice, seven hours and 49 minutes of daylight if you are lucky. Its pretty grim here today in Lancashire with drizzle and mist. I missed the classic photo of the robin in the snow last week. Not much else to show in the garden at the moment.
As i wandered round The Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley last week I was making a mental note of any colour for this time of year. To be honest not a lot stood out. The trees were resplendent in autumn colours as one would expect, there were some unidentified tall white grasses near the glass house but you had to look closer to spot anything that would be of use in my small northern garden.
Red Dogwoods were brilliantly coloured but more suitable for an urban park than my borders but there may be room for a couple at the back of a shrub bed. Pyracantha, Firethorn, seemed more colourful than the Cotoneaster in my garden, though with their thorns maybe a position against a wall would be best. So that is two to buy in for next year.
But what about now, Last week we had the deluge for a few days and now morning ground frosts have become established.
Leaves continue to colour and then blow around the lawn and into my pond, which needs a good clear out.
Spot the fish.
Nerines are flowering still, as last month, but little else. My Mahonia Charity has started flowering and will do so over winter.
Hydrangea heads are drying out and showing pastel shades, I should get round to picking some.
The seed heads of Phlomis are worth leaving on the plants over winter for their intricate structure.
The holly berries have been eaten by the blackbirds but red berries on the Berberis shrubs are lasting well.
The trees are almost bare of leaves and this has enabled some lovely low sunsets on the last few clear evenings.
Yesterday morning there was a heavy dew, the temperature had dropped to 6°, today it is wet and windy again. I’ve just returned from La Palma where the temperature was in the high 20s – what a shock.
Wandering round the garden there is little to see, a few Asters and Japanese Anemones are giving some faded colour. Round the corner the Nerine bowdenii is suddenly in flower. The delicate Fuchsia magellanica Alba is hanging on.
Autumn colours have only just started but the strong winds, whilst I’ve been away, have already stripped some trees. The blackbirds are eating the holly berries so by Xmas there will be none left.
The clocks go back tonight. Little else to say really.
I’ve been away most of September and the garden is looking neglected, but to continue my year’s diary…
Hedges need trimming and plants cutting back. Not a lot has changed since the end of last month and we are now slowly drifting into Autumn.
Sedums come into their own at this time of year.
As do Michaelmas Daisies [asters]The Monkshood [Aconitum carmichaelii] seem to have grown taller this year, they are probably the most poisonous plant in the garden.Cimicifuga simplex racemona brightens up a shady cornerand a late flowering Phlox paniculata Norah Leigh does the sameThe less showy Physostegia virginiana, the Obedient Plant named because it will stay in any position you twist it to, makes an effort to flower.
Otherwise it is seeds and berries.
The Cornus kousa fruit soon goes off but apparently can be used for making wine – next year.The birds love the Cotoneaster berriesand my Monkey Puzzle tree has started producing ‘cones’
I’m not going to mention the weather. To be honest the garden doesn’t look a lot different this August from July but there are some interesting additions.
Many of the flowers from July are still showing, the Japanese anemones have a long flowering period…
… the Hemerocallis, Day Lily, has only a short one – as its name implies.One of the shrubs essential to any garden is Buddleia davidii not only for its fragrant blooms in late summer but for the butterflies it attracts.
Three more unusual plants in my side border are Crinum powelli, Clematis heracleifolia and Cautleya spicata ‘Robusta’ [Himalayan Ginger]
Far less showy but giving good ground cover in rough shady areas is Persicaria campanulatum. The humble Montbretia has many varieties, all a little invasive, one particular favourite of mine is Crocosomia solfatareI have other varieties of this easy plant
In my boggy area I grow this interesting plant, Kirengeshoma palmata, which is just coming into flower.
A small uncommon tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, at this time of year develops strange fragrant flowers.
The Fuchsia papoose is showing its colourful bells and who knows with a little more sun plants like Helianthus Lemon Queen will brighten up the end of the month.
On the TV weather this evening Daren Bett has just announced “there’s something wrong with the weather at the moment” and I have to agree with him. Most of my garden posts have started with the same complaint. In the last few days we have experienced, in a random order, everything it can throw at us. The winds today made photography of my poor flowers difficult and its getting to the end of the month.
The Hostas which give good leaf colour all season also produce stately flowers.In amongst them grows the everlasting pearl white flowers of Anaphalis triplinervis Summer Snow, aptly named.Another unusual white flower appears in my pond – Houttuynia cordata ‘Plena’
My geraniums continue to flower and Buxton’s Blue is showy this month.The Japanese anemones have started flowering and will produce blooms for the next month or so.
This hydrangea hovers between pink and blue…… whereas this lace cap is a lovely shade of white.Far more brash is Crocosmia ‘lucifer’.and this orange/pink Phlox
In my Monkey Puzzle tree grows Clematis ‘Praecox’ which always draws comments from passing pedestrians as it hangs out into the road.Blues still dominate the colour schemes
A delicate shrub is flowering with pea like flowers, Indigofera pseudotinctoria from China.
Whilst elsewhere some of the showy yellow flowers of summer are beginning to dominate parts of the borders Inula hookeri and Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’
Lets hope for a drier warmer August to bring out those colours.
At the beginning of June we experienced some wild and windy days which played havoc with climbing roses and small trees. Having been away I needed dry weather to catch up with the lawn and start on the hedges, dry days were in short supply. I struggled to complete before disappearing off to France for a couple of weeks, when ironically the weather was dry and hot in Lancashire. Since my return it has rained every day.
So I have been rather disappointed with the garden this June.
At the start of the month the yellow Allium Moly and the Bartley Variety Primulas harked back to Spring.
The Day lilies [Hemerocallis], Bowl of Beauty Peony and white Siberian Iris all have a short flowering period.
My Choisya Mexican Orange Blossom and Purple Leaved Elderberry are two of the shrubs flowering.
Fragrant Honeysuckle grows outside my bedroom window.
In amongst my shrubs I have the rambling Tropaeolum speciosum, Flame Creeper, which likes its roots in the shade and goes wherever it wishes, giving colour in the evergreens.I’m not one for formal rose bushes but I have several climbing varieties scattered through the garden and June is the month for roses.
Paul’s Himalayan Musk.
A few choice perennials are flowering but I don’t seem to have as much colour as usual.
I was away the first week or so of this month and noticed how many plants had come into bloom and soon past their best. I was able to photo the ordinary red Peony but my splendid yellow Tree Peony was finished.
As you can see from my header photo everywhere is very green at this time of year. The Hostas add to the verdancy.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas in full bloom in May, I haven’t had time to label everything …
Alliums are spring up everywhere and the larger ones give a good dried display when the foliage dies back later in the year.Of course the more humble chives I grow in a pot are in the same family
In the pond and damper areas delicate iris flowers never seem to last long Free colour is provided by the number of Aquilegia variants that I allow, can’t stop, to spring up in the borders. Geraniums are beginning to flower in all parts of the garden, they seem to thrive in the NW.
I’ve a varied selection of Euphorbia with their diverse and unique floral structures.
Of course it’s Lilac time
Other shrubs are showy
Viburnum plicatum Mariessii
Laburnum watereri vossii
Cornus kousa Gold Star.
My Clematis are not doing well, too much winter cutting back but Nelly Moser always puts on a good display.
Each day you walk round the garden something new appears
Gladiolus byzantinus and Libertia formosa.
Roses are just beginning to bloom but they will be better in June…
Its been a dry but rather cold month. Scarifying the lawn produced masses of moss, lawn sand was heavily used and had to be watered in. The resulting black areas look awful at present but I’m hoping will pay off. I was in no rush to start mowing.
Shoots are appearing everywhere, tree leaves are a lovely fresh green, ferns are unfolding and young cones colouring up on the conifers.
Clumps of bluebells bring colour to shady areas. Early herbaceous plants are slow to flower but a few ‘weeds’ are already blossoming, that is why I leave them to seed in a few spaces. Cambrian Poppy, Honesty and the Yellow Dead Nettle.
As one cherry blossom is blown away another appears.Of course spring is when the Rhododendrons come into their own and the best time to visit some of the famous gardens where they flourish. My favourites were Dunge Valley Gardens close to Windgather Crag in the High Peak for a bit of apres bouldering and Muncaster Castle on the edge of the lakes. It was to the latter we retreated on a rainy climbing trip in Eskdale 20yrs ago and I purchased Rh. Unique and it is always one of the first to flower in my garden. Good to have a bit of history involved in ones plants – that was the weekend Princess Di was killed. Others are flowering in a shady area at the back …
Usually the first clematis to flower is an Alpina variety with a delightful shade of blue …Dotted around are several different Corydalis …
and Dicentra …
… they need very little attention and provide low colour.
The prehistoric looking Darmera peltata thrives in my boggy area and produces interesting flower heads before the large leaves appear.At the end of the month the spectacular blue Camassia quamash starts to open, a sign that the garden will be in full bloom next month.
Sparrows and tits are occupying all my nest boxes and the swallows were back on the 20th.
From the first day of March the frogs were busy mating in my pond and bats started flying round my house at dusk. There are lambs in the field at the back of my garden. Feels like the year has started at last and we have had a few sunny days at the beginning of the month.
Spring bulbs continue to appear, Muscari, Anemone blanda, Iris reticulata and Snake’s Head Fritillaries all were a joy to see again. The taller daffodils come into their own for picking for the house.The low lying Pulmonaria brighten several gloomy areas – officinalis , Pink Dawn and Azurea.
This pretty little blue flower seeds itself around the borders – Cardamine pentaphylla…Of course the cherries have come into flower, lets hope there is not too much wind which destroys their petals… as has the Magnolia stellata…
The delicate primrose flowers of my Corylopsis shrub soon fade…… and the petals of Camellia are susceptible to the morning sun on frosty days.I’m just back from the Canary Islands and looking forward to April’s offerings but first there is some hard work to do on the lawn and those weeds have started growing.