Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend


What show-offs – the lot of them. But what a joyous display and just at the moment when most of the other tulips are fading. I spotted these yesterday on a chance visit to The Dingle, in the Quarry, Shrewsbury town’s lovely riverside park. This place was a popular haunt in my teenage years – for meeting up with friends and for the covert smoking of cigarettes. (Naughty us, polluting the place with Consulate smoke).

The Dingle was made out of an old stone quarry, and in many ways is very much a municipal garden with its regimental planting of bulbs and bedding plants. The bosky-dell setting works its magic though, and there was certainly no denying the cheeriness of the colour-scape under yesterday’s gloomy sky. BTW that’s St. Chad’s church in the background – in case you’re wondering. It is notable for having the country’s largest circular nave. Also Charles Darwin was christened there in 1809. Less notably, my Priory Girls Grammar School, along with the Priory Boys, used to traipse here every November for our founder’s day service. It goes without saying that the most exciting thing about the event to us girls was BOYS.


But back to the gardens.

The Dingle’s formal layout was created by Britain’s first TV celebrity gardener, Percy Thrower. He was Shrewsbury Parks Superintendent from 1946-1974 and very much associated with the famous annual Shrewsbury Flower Show which is still held in the Quarry every August. As a fifties child I remember watching Percy on the BBC. My father was a great admirer, so I followed suit and held Mr. Thrower in high regard even if I didn’t need the gardening advice. At that stage I was into growing oak trees from acorns, and he didn’t seem to cover that particular topic. Mostly I learned to associate gardening with kindliness and a genial practicality, qualities that the sculpture in the next photo captures too. I was touched to find him smiling out over his creation. And that his collar and tie were just as I remembered them.


I think he would be pleased that there has been no attempt to veer from  his original concept and ‘update’ the planting scheme. And although, in the main, this is not my style of gardening, I can still admire it. I could also see how much pleasure it was giving to people of all ages – a truly hidden haven since there is no view of the interior from the surrounding park. You have to step inside one of several gateways to ‘discover’ it.




It makes me think: every person on the planet needs access to a garden – whether it be untouched wilderness, manicured parkland, cultivated arbour or even a window box. We need to keep in touch with the growing world that heals, soothes, inspires and nourishes us. Which also makes me think that good old Percy Thrower, who did so much to encourage everyone to garden and to appreciate plants was truly a bit of a hero. Please go and say hello to him if ever you are in Shrewsbury.

Jo’s Monday Walk If you haven’t yet joined Jo on one of her fabulous walks (and you never do know where she’ll be going next), then please put on your hiking boots and follow the link.

A Good Crop All Round ~ Thursday’s Special At Hopton Castle And Brampton Bryan


This week at Lost in Translation Paula asks us to show her photos that we have cropped to reveal detail or improve the composition. I have to say that I crop most of my photos, and certainly architectural subjects almost always benefit from a trim.

Here are some cropped shots in and around Hopton Castle. This mediaeval ruin stands in a rural and rather remote corner of Shropshire near the Herefordshire border, one of a cluster of castles built either to keep the Welsh neighbours in their place or as a piece of lordly showing off. Today, Hopton is romantically and rustically picturesque, although once it was the site of a bloody Civil War siege.  In one of my earlier Thursday’s Special posts I featured the restoration of the monument.




Not far from Hopton and just over the border into Herefordshire is the little village of Brampton Bryan. One of its most noteworthy features is the free-form yew hedge that shelters the owners of Brampton Bryan Hall from the gaze of passing hoi polloi  and the inhabitants of the pretty estate village. The light was not good, but I think cropping the images has made them passable – at least for ‘guided tour’ general nosiness purposes:






The Harley family who own the estate, including the village properties with their blue doors, has been around the place since Domesday. Their present home behind the hedge was built after the Civil War in 1660, and remodelled in the 18th century. I snatched a glimpse over the rear churchyard wall, but though imposing it was not very captivating, at least not compared with this next view of their own personal castle ruin. It is not open to the public so I couldn’t get a better photo.


I can’t help thinking how very wonderful it would be to have one’s own castle ruin out in the apple orchard, never mind the stately pile.

Thursday’s Special: Section

The Changing Seasons: April And the Alien Invasion?


All right I’m a gardener, and maybe a tad prone to persecution mania on the pest front, but this month it’s been wall to wall dandelions, and no sign of the invasion letting up. Not only are they EVERYWHERE, and especially out in force at the allotment, but they are also showing signs of mutating into mega-weeds, some as big as palm trees. OK. Perhaps not quite that big. But I can see what they’re plotting: world domination in Much Wenlock.

All means of defence seem puny before the onslaught. I’ve tried mowing, hoeing, beheading, excising. Even resorted to engaging in dialogue of the non-expletive variety. But it’s no go. So I thought I’d shoot the varmints instead – photo-wise naturally. And of course, they really are very beautiful – whether in flower or gone to seed – and also so very perfectly designed for maximum coverage of planet Earth.

The one thing I’ve forgotten to do this year is eat some of them – young leaves in salad and for a system-cleansing tea, roots dry-roasted  to make quite a passable coffee that also has health benefits, flowers deep fried as fritters (though I’ve not tried this). And now that I’m seeing them in a more kindly light, and established a little perspective, I’m ready to post a less fraught compilation of April shots taken on and around the allotment.










The Changing Seasons: April 2017 Please visit Max at Cardinal Guzman to see Oslo in April and other bloggers’ offerings.

Collision Course? Present And Past In Conwy

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This week at Black & White Sunday Paula asks us for an ‘After and Before’ – i.e. a colour photograph converted to monochrome. She wants us to use this device to look at our work with fresh eyes. It is an interesting exercise.

This shot was very spur of the moment’, and into the sun to boot – taken as the bus to Llandudno swung round a sharp bend down and past Conwy’s mediaeval town walls. But I liked the juxtaposition of ancient and new,  the impressively static versus the transient. For some reason I also like the ‘one way’ traffic road sign – as if it might mean something other than the obvious.

Overall, as a composition I’m not sure what to make of it, but I keep looking at it just in case it might have something important to say, and I think the monochrome version has a certain drama. The first version is in ‘Cyan tone’ according to my Microsoft editing programme. This next one is what happens when you press the ‘Black & White’ option:


And here’s the original:

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Now over to Paula’s at Black & White Sunday for more ‘Afters’.

Tulips Raising The Roof At Attingham


We thought we’d make the most of the sunny day and popped over to Attingham Park at lunch time. Half the world had the same idea and the place was alive with happy families and happy dogs roving over the parkland. There were fallow deer to see, bluebell woods, trees burstingly green, stream banks golden with marsh marigolds, and in the walled garden’s frame-yard these very shouty tulips. My goodness but they had a lot to say for themselves.

Six Word Saturday

#SixWordSaturday #6WS

Juxtaposing The Old, New And Re-Purposed In Manchester’s Northern Quarter


It’s hard to believe it’s a year since we were up in Manchester. Lovely niece Sarah had bought tickets for the Buena Vista Social Club’s Adios Tour. We went up by train. Astonishingly there is a direct service from rural Church Stretton to Manchester Piccadilly. The venue was The Bridgewater Hall. It was a great night out: Omara Portuondo, still singing at 85, gave us her all. But it was a little sad too, with film tributes on screen, commemorating past members of this life-affirming ensemble; it left one with a bit of a hum-ho feeling.

And the antidote to such feelings is a trip round the city’s Northern Quarter.

Early on the following Monday morning we set off there. It was once the heart of Victorian Manchester’s cotton trade (there are family connections here: my Hickling grandfather and great grandfather were cotton merchants), now it is a hive  of quirky, alternative, creative, innovative, vintage, left-leaning city living. As in the first photo, there is a lot of what architectural conservationists (if they were feeling generous) might call ‘adaptive re-use’.



There is still much recycling to do and the place is not pretty. The streets display layers of multi-period dilapidation from the nineteenth century onwards. But there is a vibe here, in the same way there is a vibe in London’s Camden Market. People are doing interesting and creative things. There are independent boutiques and craft-beer bars. If you are into vintage then there are many shopping opportunities, and most especially at Affleck’s Palace emporium:






If you are a maker then Fred Aldous provides a whole department store of art and craft materials to keep your fingers busy.  And if you want to see what local artists and designers are up to, then the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, located in a former Victorian fish and poultry market, showcases their work:





But my favourite piece of juxtaposing is the new development that allowed the survival of the facade of the old wholesale fish market. Aesthetically some might say it’s uneasy union of old and new. But I like it. Mostly because someone had the wit to think it possible. If you look inside the entrance you can see the apartment block has a courtyard garden that has retained the original cast iron columns of the market hall:




And finally, after all the hiking around, what is most needed is a nice cup of tea with some of the finest cakes on offer. In fact they cater for all tastes and food requirements at the Teacup Kitchen.



Thursday’s Special: Juxtaposition

I Will Survive! Blooming Transplanted Crab Apple


Back in the autumn I mentioned we had been forced to move a much loved crab apple tree. Her name is Evereste and she is a small tree of the Japanese sort. She was originally planted in the corner of an ugly raised bed and beside some increasingly dangerous garden steps. The bed needed to go, and Graham planned to remodel the steps so we would not break our necks on them in the upcoming years of decrepitude, or after a glass too many of Prosecco out in the garden. Evereste thus had to be relocated to a much nicer spot on our fence boundary, but before that she had to undergo some very serious pruning with the aim of reducing the stress of being moved. She went from being a billowy, branchy tree to a very neat and upright tree.

However, I’m sure she will return to her billowy self in a year or two, and the good news is she is flowering wonderfully NOW. I love crab apple trees. We recently bought a stunning weeping one for my sister’s birthday – Royal Beauty . And it was while I was tracking down suppliers that I learned you could make a hedge using low growing crab apple trees. A hedge that flowers and fruits. How beautiful is that – and how the wildlife would love it. It’s making me think that Evereste might need some company along the garden fence.


Cee’s Flower of the day

Black & White Sunday: A Spot Of Dog Walking And A Dastardly Outbreak Of Clothes Moths


Here is a dog who knows just where he’s going, taking the steps down to the old railway line that runs besides the Linden Walk. I caught him by chance in a beam of sunlight. This rather makes him look as if I stuck him on later. I also like the way his master has become a silhouette at the top of the steps.  One my photo-accidents that turned out quite well.

While I’m here I’d like to wish you all a Happy 16th April in whatever capacity you are enjoying or celebrating it. As for me, I’m waging a campaign against moths – cleaning out my closet and putting all my fine wool items into the freezer for a fortnight. It’s just as well the stock of frozen allotment beans and raspberries is now dwindling and I have a spare drawer for assorted Indian shawls. And in case you think this very odd behaviour for an Easter Sunday, my other half tells me that this is the only way to ensure my woollies are moth egg-free without the application of noxious chemicals. Apparently there is quite an outbreak of clothes moths in the UK just now. I’m wondering if this isn’t due to all the buying of cashmere jumpers that people have been indulging in; it’s ideal moth food. Anyway, it does have its uses being married to an entomologist.

Black & White Sunday  Please visit Paula to see her mesmeric stairwell. If you follow her steps down and down, they could well take you to a parallel universe.

Some People Don’t Like Spanish Bluebells


Naturally I would have to say that nothing compares with the hazy woodland swathes of British bluebells; their slender spires gently nodding; the subtle fragrance that not quite like any other scent.

By contrast, the garden-escaping Spanish sort are much more upright and chunky, more like a skinny hyacinth. They have blue pollen too, or so the Woodland Trust site tells me. And it also says they are a big MENACE. People hate them in their gardens and so dig them up and dump them round the countryside, where they have relations with our native species, so changing them forever.

Without doubt, losing our native species would be a great a shame, but I still have time for the Spanish cousins that pop up around our garden. Admittedly I used to try to dig them up and compost them – until I learned that it was a pretty impossible task to excavate every part of them.

Now when they flower, I pick them. They make excellent house flowers, their bells opening wider and the blue fading over the days. They smell nice too. I’m thinking that cutting them off at the roots might also put a stop to fraternisation, and ultimately weaken the plant. In the meantime, I have the pleasure of them indoors.

Picking the native species is of course very much forbidden. But those of you who live in the UK will soon have the pleasure of spotting them in a wood near you. Reports have it that they will be flowering early this year.


Six Word Saturday Now pop over to Debbie’s for more SWS posts.

Waiting At The Severn Valley Railway


Ghosts of travellers past, or reflections from across the track? I truly cannot say.

This week’s Thursday’s Special cue is WAITING. Paula’s stunning piece of graffiti made me think about trains, and how, as a child, I seemed to spend a lot of time waiting for them, and mostly on Crewe Station. Anyone who knows about the history of railways will know that Crewe is the railway junction, gateway to the north-west of England, and one of the world’s first railway stations (completed in 1837). Being a country child, I used to find it all a bit alarming: shunting, clanking, whistles, whooshing, hissing, porters, trolleys, oil, iron, coal, steam, strangers…

By contrast, the Severn Valley Railway, seems like a dream, although all the same ingredients are there – relics of the age of steam. Strange to think that this includes me too.