From The Side-lines ~ Digging Not Flooding

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Our cottage is rather short, the upstairs rooms being contained mostly by open roof space rather than walls. Also, the house itself is set in the side of a steep bank between Townsend Meadow and the main road, which means the best views  (our only good ones) are from the bedroom roof-lights. These windows all face west and overlook the field towards Wenlock Edge and the big sky above.

Much time can pass at these windows, studying cloud movements or the wheeling of rooks and jackdaws.  Sometimes the odd soul (with or without companionable dog) walks by on the field path just beyond our garden gate, and sometimes on Monday mornings, the town’s entire ‘walk for health’ mob, several dozen strong with high-vis vested leaders and bringers-up of rear, trails by. Now and then, too, the farmer can also be spotted, driving his latest substance-spraying rig back and forth across the crop (this week it was a top-dressing of fertiliser for the wheat which – after the rain – is already shooting up like multiples of Jack’s beanstalk). So given this general lack of activity out back, the appearance of a big digger and very large dump truck on the near horizon was an exciting event.

The work in progress (over the brow of the hill and out of sight in the field’s top corner) is the excavation of an attenuation pond. (There is another larger one to the south of the town). They are basically reservoir basins, but without water – designed to stem the impact of any flash flood off  Wenlock Edge. The town sits in a bowl between the Edge and several hills, and has been designated a rapid response flood zone. This sounds alarming, and indeed could well be, but the conditions for flash flooding are very particular: i.e. if a severe storm hits our catchment after prolonged periods of rain when the ground is sodden, or in winter after hard frost. Water that cannot drain into the land flows into adjacent roads which then act like rivers, speedily conducting the run-off into the town centre. This can all happen in the space of 20 minutes.

As far as we know, and despite its shortness and low-lying position, our house has no history of being flooded. In the last big flood of 2007 the water seemed to flow around us. I watched the rain pour off the garden terraces behind the house, flow by the kitchen door in a fast running stream before emptying on to the main road where it doubtless contributed to the flooding of properties downstream of us.

It was unnerving to see, and later we heard that at least 50 houses in the centre of town had their cellars and ground floors deluged. That evening, coming home from work across the Edge, Graham had to abandon the car on the far side of town and take an upland ‘cross-country’ route home.

How well the ponds will serve us is yet to be demonstrated. After 12 years without a flood, it is easy to imagine that it won’t happen again, though last month The Man from the Environment Agency did come specially to town to tell us we must remain vigilant. As many round the world know to their cost, climate change is responsible for an increase in extreme weather events and, in the most extreme scenario, our ponds will only slow the flow, not stop it. There are probably further measures that could be taken: urging (enforcing would be better) landowners to plant more trees, create more flood plains  round water courses, stop selling their land for large housing developments whose roofs and access roads accelerate run-off.

For now, though, all thanks are due to the workforce who toiled, excavating and landscaping the ponds, which may one day save our most vulnerable residents the distress of having to spend a year and more drying out a flooded home. In the meantime, I keep watching the sky over Wenlock Edge. At times when the rain closes in, day after day without let up, it’s easy to wonder: is this flooding rain?

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: from the side

December’s Changing Seasons ~ All Of Them Except Winter

This wintery looking hedge is on the lane to Downs Mill, though it was a mild afternoon when I took this photo, more like spring. The hazel catkins along the field path by the house have been thinking much the same, their tassels opening to the late December sun. Out in the garden the Dyer’s Chamomile (grown from seed last summer) is still flowering, as are pink and coral hesperanthus and hardy geraniums. None of them seem to have been bothered by the few mornings’ frost we had earlier in the month.

Otherwise, there have been a couple of gales, lots of murk with fog and too much rain, but also blue-sky days too, and so far little sign of winter as we once knew it. Up at the allotment the Swiss Chard is having yet another flush of juicy leaves and the pot marigolds have started to flower again, their petals adding a zing of colour to green salads. And in the fields all round the winter wheat is zooming up.

 

The Changing Seasons ~ December

Goodness Gracious, Godetia ~ Don’t You Know Summer’s Gone?

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Clearly not, though she is a bit ragged round the edges. Anyway, here’s how I caught her on Tuesday when I was passing through the garden en route for the allotment with my bag of compost makings. (The heap building must go on.) This ‘cheap and cheerful’ cottage garden annual (once also known as Clarkia) is an easily grown plant that can usually be relied on to produce clouds of colour throughout the summer and do much self-seeding. This year however, it did not like the prolonged heat one bit. The limp and skinny stems that were produced soon curled up and fainted, and watering the plants didn’t seem to help matters either. I abandoned the cause. But now, heading for Christmas, I find a single plant prevails,  driven by the seed-setting imperative. There’s optimism for you.

Time Square #13

Today A Touch Of Garden Magic ~ Foxgloves?

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Well, it has to be some kind of magic, foxgloves in November. And not just one aberrant stem, but several all set to bloom. And this after last week’s several frosty days. But what a treat to find it flowering outside the back door – its blushed peachy shades looking far too delicate for this autumn outing.

There are other treasures too. In the raised bed at the top of the garden there are delicate cascades of Aster Lady in Black. I bought it at the end of last summer, and it has just now come into its own. It doesn’t grow too large, but has dark stems and feathery leaves and a slightly unruly habit, and while the individual flowers are tiny, the overall effect is perfect for brightening a late season border.

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And then there are still some crimson snapdragons and coral hesperantha:

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Before And After ~ Just Look What Became Of The Quince Blossom

Back in May I posted photos of the allotment quince tree in its final flowering and pondered on the fruit to come, the delicate scent of it when ripe and ready for the making of quince jelly and quince ‘cheese’ – the dulce de membrillo of Spain’s Iberian peninsula that is eaten with Manchego cheese. I have never made either, but this year may well be the year, that’s if I speak nicely to Phoebe, Ian and Siegfried who have taken over the care of the allotment’s small orchard where the quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) is growing.

The other day I noticed that the tree is now fruiting magnificently, doubtless a response to our heatwave, its native lands being a good deal warmer than the UK – i.e. Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. Although, according to what I have read, it is an amenable plant and will do well in cooler climates. It is drought tolerant too, so another candidate for nurturing here in the UK with our increasingly hot and rainless summers. I think I would grow it for the beauty of its blossom alone. The fruit is a bonus, even if one only wants to look at it. But no picking it yet, no matter how fat and golden it looks. That pleasure must wait till autumn’s end, after the first frosts.

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In the Pink #14

This Morning Over The Garden Fence ~ A Field For All Seasons

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I’ve watched this crop of rapeseed developing behind our house since the autumn when it was sown – back to back with the wheat harvest. All through the winter it clung to the ground and was much eaten by pigeons. In April, after a good dosing with agrichemicals, it sprang into life like Jack’s beanstalk, and was soon taller than me. By May is was a sea of acid yellow, that mellowed to gold. This morning at 5.30 am it was turned to copper. As I’m writing this, the field, under the full-on midday sun, is being visited by hosts of cabbage white butterflies.

So it is that the plants have survived deluge, bird predation, gale, blizzard, frost, three lots of snow, and now weeks of ground-baking drought. The plants look almost ready to harvest, although when I inspected a couple of pods last night, there seemed to be precious little seed inside. Which made me think that only the farmers who are harvesting sun with their fields of solar panels will be having a good crop this year.

Here’s a retrospective of Townsend Meadow during 2018.

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The Changing Seasons March 2018 ~ All Wind, Snow And White Horses

This was the sight that greeted us as we drove back into Shropshire from Wales last Saturday – a snow-dusted vision of Titterstone Clee. A windscreen shot too. Here and there along the country roads there was also some astonishing ice art in the hedges. Temperatures were so frigid that when cars drove through verge puddles  the water splashed up on to the bare twigs and froze in cascades of tiny silver icicles. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and certainly not in March: Christmas trees all over again. Anyway, March may be summed up in one word: FREEZING.

 

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In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #3

 

The Changing Seasons: March 2018

News From The North ~ First Day Of Spring?

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The lesser celandines have been flowering since December, and never mind three lots of snow dumped on them. It’s all very confusing. To me the opening of these sunny little flowers has always signalled the start of spring, so I’m posting this photo to mark its official, if not the actual arrival on our side of the planet. Am also hoping that Siberia will recall her wind-hounds, and double-quick. Enough icy blasts already.

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Some slightly wonky circles in a square for Becky’s March Square #20

The Changing Seasons ~ Snow and Marigolds In January

Well, it’s hardly been gardening weather – far too wet; not at all like our good old winters where on fine, cold days you could pile on the gardening togs, balaclava and all, get out your trusty spade and dig the allotment, naturally always standing on a plank as you went so as not to compact the soil.

I actually like digging, though I’m trying to wean myself off the practice (as many of you who come here will know) opting instead for the no-dig approach which relies on raised beds and the annual autumn application of compost. Around 2 inches worth says no-dig guru, Charles Dowding, and only on the surface (he has lots of useful videos on You Tube and grows parsnips and carrots the size of cruise missiles).

The only problem with this approach is you need loads and loads of compost, and despite my having a dozen assorted piles, bins and bays of decomposing garden waste, I never seem to have enough garden-ready stuff at the right time. I also completely forgot about the autumn application as I had left my brain in the olive groves of Kalamata back in October. Drat! However, it did return briefly in December to remember to gather leaves for making leaf mould, and it’s probably not too late to go out and gather more if only it weren’t raining, and Wenlock’s likely byways a sea of slithery Silurian mud.

We also had more snow in January, but not the glistening, Snow-Queeny landscapes of December, but the dank and dreary sort followed by more rain, which soon washed it away. Except that when I went up to the allotment on Monday I was surprised to find heaps of it lurking along the sides of the polytunnels. Oh no! I remembered the old wives’ tale which says that when snow remains we can expect further falls to carry it away. Hmph. A curse on old wives for being so doomy. We’ve done snow. Now we want spring!

But then the odd thing about that is, along with our snow and frost we have also had spring, or at least if the pot marigolds are anything to go by. These are self-seeded annuals that grow hither and thither around my plot, and not even being buried for a week under December’s snow drifts stopped them flowering. When the snow receded they emerged full-on, like floral headlights, though their stems were somewhat misshapen from the burying. As anyone would be.

Anyway, here are some views of the allotment taken on Monday. I’m  including some of my compost heaps – not a pretty sight, I know, but they bring joy to this gardener’s heart. Also of my parsnips, which as you will see were exceedingly hard to extract from the mud. They are also nowhere near the size of Charles Dowding’s cruise missiles, nor as perfectly formed. But then as the shed-building man who lives in my house says, who needs parsnips that big?  A vaguely existentialist enquiry to which I find there is no answer…

 

The Changing Seasons

For those who haven’t caught up yet, Su Leslie is now our very excellent host for The Changing Seasons monthly challenge, having taken over from our former very excellent host Max at Cardinal Guzman  (btw fantastic ski-ing video at Max’s blog). We have thus shifted across the globe from Norway to New Zealand. Please pop over to Su’s place to see her and other bloggers’ monthly round up from their corners of the world. And please join in. The ‘rules’ are simple.

Monday Magic ~ Today In My Wenlock Garden

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Good heavens! This morning we woke to frost. The windscreens of the cars parked across the road were definitely glinting whitely. But there was bright sunshine too, lighting up the last of the leaves on the lime trees. They looked like great golden flares.

And since the temperature was much keener today than yesterday, sun notwithstanding, my cooking thoughts turned to making Greek lentil soup. While it was it was cooking I went out in the garden to snap whatever was blooming.

Extraordinary, isn’t it. We’ve had vicious gales, heavy rain and yet on the 30th day of October we still have sweet peas on the back fence. There are also masses of buds on the Morning Glories, though when they do open, it’s a half-hearted show of the decidedly shivery. I’m  not sure why they waited till October to get going.

The real stars are geranium Rozanne, now in its second or third flowering, and the little border of coral and shell pink Hesperantha; pull off the lilies’ spent stems and more burst forth.

So welcome to my autumn garden and all that’s still flourishing there. Frost, what frost?

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Copyright 2017 Tish Farrell