Today we paid our respects to this very elderly oak tree. It has been growing in Attingham Park in Shropshire since the 1370 where it is now under the care of the National Trust and fondly known as the Repton Oak since it was already a veteran in 1797 when garden designer, Humphrey Repton landscaped the parkland for the Barons Berwick.
But just think of the span of human history it has lived through. When it popped shoot and radicle from its acorn Edward III was still on the throne, and the Hundred Years War between England and France was only half done. By the time it had grown to a sturdy sapling Geoffrey Chaucer was thinking of writing The Canterbury Tales and the peasants were in revolt against the draconian levels of taxation (raised to fight the war that did not end until 1453 and was actually the 116 years war).
The oak tree is still a great presence in the landscape though sadly its innards are decaying. But this is not all bad news since it provides an important haven for the rare Lesser Stag Beetle whose larvae feed on the rotting wood at the centre of such ancient trees.
A national treasure of a tree then: arboreal emblem of stalwart resilience. We must remember to pay another visit when it’s in leaf.
I usually do have a camera in my pocket when I go to the allotment, although gardening and snapping are not ideal co-activities given the photographer’s general grubbiness. Anyway, here are some of my favourite shots from the past few years: nature small but beautiful, and in no particular seasonal order. I especially love the header photo though – the winter sun caught in a windfall apple that has been hollowed out by blackbirds, so many natural forces at play here.
Also the fact that I caught a Common Blue butterfly, wings open and with a one-handed click and it turned out to be pretty much in focus, is hugely pleasing. These little butterflies flit about at high speed, and seem especially nervous if you point a camera at them.
Most perversely too, while my gardener self fumes at finding dandelions, thistles and bindweed in the garden, since they are the most difficult weeds to oust, I still admire their beauty, and in all their phases. And the bees clearly love thistle flowers too.
So much to see all around us. We only have to look.
This week Patti at Lens-Artists gives us nature as her theme. Please call in to see her and the other Lens-Artists’ work.
I found the allotment teeming with bees and butterflies the other evening. As you can see, the butterflies really love the oregano flowers. The little blue butterfly was too skittish for me to get a good photo, but I’m assuming it is a small blue or a common blue.
One of the best thing about Word Press is how one blogger introduces you to another although they are poles apart across the planet. In this case Ark down in Johannesburg who documents his garden’s wildlife visitors (please go and see his latest slide show of some of Africa’s loveliest birds) gave me a nudge to visit Pete Hillman who documents wildlife from his home in Staffordshire, the next door county to mine. He takes very beautiful photos and is a fund of knowledge over what’s what.
So now for my mystery moth. These are rubbish photos due to the high speed whizzy movements of the subject. I’m thinking it is a hawk moth of some sort. It was out late the other morning, pile driving the phlox flowers with a very scary proboscis. Most unnerving. Over to you, Pete…
Can you see it? This slightly fuzzy macro shot has made a monster of the tiny little crab spider that is busy trying to hide from me. I should say that in real life it was less then one eighth of an inch (2mm) from top to toes. Even so, and you can’t see it very well from this angle, its abdomen had taken on the camouflage colours of the pinky-purple cosmos.
There’s just so much going on in the natural world around us, and most of it we miss entirely.
After Sunday’s bizarre experience with a paramotor wing over the garden during supper, here is a true exponent of the art of flight. Quite silent too.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to reach the allotment. I set off with great purpose, shouldering a big bag of vegetable waste for the the compost heap. It is only a short hike across the field, although after rain it can be treacherously slithery, thus requiring due care and attention to avoid all outbreaks of undignified slippage. And then there are the distractions. And if I happen to have a camera in my pocket: well then, gardening must wait.
So that’s what happened when I spotted these apples that someone had slung over their hedge in the autumn. During the winter the blackbirds had nibbled the insides so neatly that only the skins remained. Not only that, the delicate apple ‘shells’ had now accrued quite new and surprising properties. Lying scattered in downtrodden grass and browning leaves, they were now capturing and emitting that too rare glow of winter sunshine. Thank you, blackbirds. A fine light show.
Thursday’s Special: recycled
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
The cawing of rooks and chack-chacking of jackdaws in the grounds of St. Bride’s Castle was deafening. Day after day and no break from the din as the birds whisked round gathering nesting material or scouting out new nesting spots. The jackdaws seemed to have their sights on the castle turrets, while the rooks had commandeered the nearby ash wood where they were busy composing the usual twiggy mounds up in the treetops. So much commotion and it said one thing: SPRING!
March Square #28
In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy – holiday snaps #9
I don’t know what Charles Darwin would have thought about this particular piece of birthplace birthday commemoration on his behalf. Yesterday the passers by on Wyle Cop, one of Shrewsbury’s most ancient streets, either engaged at full throttle or looked thoroughly bemused. It was certainly an original idea to devote part of the road to a wildlife reserve (Wild Cop), and to turn an empty nearby shop into a rain forest wherein children could also pick up their wildlife activity sheets to fill in during half term week.
It turned out to be part of the town’s Darwin Festival – held throughout February both to mark the fact that Darwin was born in Shrewsbury (12 February 1809), and to celebrate ‘the origin of independent thinking.’ I’ll second that fine objective. We can’t have too much of it. Now for the animals:
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
Six Word Saturday
This week Paula asks us to post our best photo from 2017. I wasn’t sure where to start, but decided to reprise the cricket which, the first time around, Ark kindly identified as a Katydid or bush cricket. It is certainly my most surprising shot of the year – both for its clarity and the fact the cricket appears to have been watching me while I organised myself with the camera. I also like the curving grasses and the bands of light and shade, and the way the cricket appears to be super-illuminated. But best of all, it reminds me of Kalamata, and the mesmerizing views of the Taygetos and the Mani across the Gulf of Messinia for I find myself still badly smitten with the Peloponnese. Ah, well. Maybe next year…