The Changing Seasons: May 2020

IMG_8111

I took this photo last night as I left the allotment: the cow parsley in the descendant, the wheat thrusting up and beginning to form ears. It rather reflects my mood, for much as we have been enjoying the sudden outburst of ‘high summer’ days, albeit in May, I’m also feeling very cross. And since my views veer towards the contrarian, I don’t intend to air them here beyond saying there is too much officialdom fudging/ineptitude/cross-purposes/vested interest/contradictory information/rubbish media reporting and all round manipulation.

So that was May in the outside world. Meanwhile in my little Wenlock  sphere of influence all is burgeoning, and the garden is lovely. I’m not sure how we ended up with Mediterranean weather over the last few days and for the week ahead. It was preceded here by two days of tempest and a high chill factor that the weather people described as a gusty breeze. So gusty was it, that plants I’d put outside to harden off, had to return indoors and the process started over once the wind dropped.

Here is the gusty breeze in action. This is not a ‘fake’ photo:

IMG_7953

I haven’t recorded this month’s allotment activities – although much has been done: earthing up of potatoes, planting out beans – runners, butter, borlotti, Jacob’s cattle gold, Cherokee, climbing French; courgettes and squashes; red cabbages, Tuscan kale; and in the polytunnel: tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. The reason I’ve not taken photos is because most things are shrouded in thin horticultural fleece or mesh to defend them from excess heat, drying out, and pigeons. For now the plots look like some kind of crazy campsite.

On the home front the garden is moving into summer mode with foxgloves, roses, sweet peas and geraniums. The columbine grannies (aquilegias) have mostly lost their bonnets, the poppies their frocks, and the alliums are transforming into seedy constellations. But the red valerian (Centranthus) – also known as kiss-me-quick and devil’s beard is busy attracting the bees, and the whole garden is filled with bee-hum which can only be a good thing. I’ve also had the chance to notice how very furry some bumble bees’ bottoms are, so I thought I’d share an example of that particular observation in the upcoming gallery.

 

And here’s some news from the Dyfi ospreys: chicks hatched in new High Definition:

 

 

The Changing Seasons: May 2020

Poppy Profusion

IMG_7873

Our cottage faces east and so has full-on morning sunshine, and here it is filling the oriental poppies – a sort of natural neon effect as they sway in the breeze. They are right beside the main road, which is growing busier by the day now that lockdown strictures are easing. But the increase in traffic isn’t cramping the poppies’ style. Lots more buds set to open, and that will definitely please the bumble bees.

IMG_7859

Today In The Columbine Garden

IMG_7798

The columbines do as they please in our garden. Over the years they have moved in from who knows where, and done much replicating. I have made only one deliberate introduction which is a lovely lemon one saved from an overgrown plot at the allotment. Every spring we have additional variations in the indigenous colour scheme, this season’s new shade being white with hints of mauve and purple. We also have various pinks, deep violet, burgundy and ivory and some of them have now moved into the front garden that sits beside the road so who knows where they will be off too next. A world invaded by columbines – well, why not?

So here are some garden views – inside back and outside back (guerrilla garden), and lastly our roadside bed which I feel could now serve as a reference plot for the Haphazard School of Cultivation. I’m not sure what the poppies are doing there – shades of Heinz tomato soup.  Ah well. They’re looking very jolly – a spot of light relief from Lockdown-itis.

IMG_7797

IMG_7796

IMG_7853

IMG_7757

IMG_7808

IMG_7804

IMG_7818

IMG_7829

IMG_7823

Today At The Top Of The Garden ~ Apple Blossom Sunshine And Tiny Tulips And A Very Happy Birthday To Becky

IMG_7453

No doubt about it, the Sunshine Deity is showering us with her beneficent rays. You can almost hear the plants crying YIPEEEEE! as they break free from the winter’s rain battered soil, which here in Silurian Sea Wenlock sets like cement.  Things are definitely thriving best in the parts of the garden that received an autumnal mulch of tree chippings (gratefully gathered from a big heap in a neighbour’s yard). The front garden by the road is a mass of foliage with bursts of blue and (nearly) black centaurea, and the little crab apple tree that went in a couple of years ago is weeping prettily. I can also see that an allium-oriental poppy break-out is imminent. Any day now!

But back to the top garden: the Coxes apple tree is just blooming and underneath it the miniature tulips are saying ‘see me, see me’. It’s all too exciting.

IMG_7461

IMG_7421

w

Square Tops #22

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BECKY! A TOPPING DAY TO YOU.

Top Run!

IMG_7374

Lots of people around the town have been keeping fit. Hats off to them. And so, as well as admiring the energetic zeal of this determined young woman, you also get to see the august lime trees of Much Wenlock’s Linden Walk just coming into leaf. Every day the green haze grows greener.

There’s a strong connection too, between these trees and physical exercise. The limes were planted by the town’s physician and his chums in around the 1860s. Dr William Penny Brookes knew a thing or several about people staying healthy – in body, mind and spirit. It was why he invented the Wenlock Olympian Games (begun in 1850) which still take place every year on the field to the left of this avenue. On the right of the Linden Walk ran the railway – whose arrival in town was also facilitated by the wise doctor’s lobbying. It once brought thousands of people from far and wide to see the games. I think Dr. Brookes would be very pleased us – we’re all shifting ourselves one way or another  – gardening, walking, cycling, running.

Talking of shifting, it’s gone 5 pm and the allotment calls. Time to trot across the field and get some spuds in.

Square Tops #16

The Deconstructed Top-Knot?

IMG_7349

When we walked into town yesterday down the Cutlins path we pleased to see members of the McMoo clan back in the meadow. And a little family group by the looks of it – daddy, mummy and junior McMoo.

And the parents all but canoodling while offspring was exploring the peripheries of the town’s electricity substation.

IMG_7372

IMG_7369

IMG_7367

On the return trip, shopping accomplished, we found the local jackdaws had discovered the McMoos too. They were busy plucking the bull’s winter coat for a spot of nest building material.

IMG_7370

 

Square Tops #12

After The Flood ~ The Primrose Path

IMG_7132

After our sunny blue-sky Monday, Tuesday was back to dank and gloom. Undaunted, though, we decided on another local jaunt, this time to the nearby River Severn and the historic settlement of Jackfield, a couple of miles downstream of Ironbridge. This old industrial enclave was once the centre of the 19th century decorative tile manufacture – two vast factories, Maw & Co and Craven Dunnill that once shipped their products down river and thence around the world to grace the walls of palaces and grand public edifices.

These days the remains of the Craven Dunnill works are given over to the Jackfield Tile Museum, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, while the remnant buildings of Maw & Co house craft workshops and apartments and the very pleasing Tile Press Cafe which was where had lunch – halloumi toasties with lots of salad.

IMG_7135

Part of the former Maw & Co decorative tile factory now used for workshops and small businesses.

*

February had seen some massive flooding along the Severn Gorge, and we were glad to see the river was pretty much back in its bed, though still flowing fast and furious and above usual levels. Turbid was the word that came to mind as I took this muddy shot.

IMG_7121

One of the worst and serial casualties of Severn flooding is the traditional old pub,  The Boat Inn.  It stands in a hollow below the footbridge to Coalport, and its front door records nearly a century of flooding. This year’s deluge was one of the worst, making third place under the 19 feet 5 inches of February 1946, and just above the 1947 flood of 19 feet 1 inch. In fact the 1940s saw 4 really bad floods, with the next worst in 1966, so this extreme excess of water is by no means a new event.

IMG_7125

IMG_7123

*

And here’s what it looked like last month, photo courtesy of The Shropshire Star on-line:

Boat Inn February 2020

It’s hard to contemplate the horror of being on the receiving end of so much water. The inn sits at the lowest point of the settlement and apparently floods from behind as well as to the front. The flood inside then holds the front doors shut against the outside flood! We felt so sorry for the licensees. There was not much sign of life when we walked by. Hopefully it will be back in action soon.

IMG_7128

IMG_7124

The inn sign gives a big clue as to the business of the past. This is one of the big trading barges (Severn trows) that used to ply the River Severn. Until the railway arrived, trows provided ideal means of transport for the Ironbridge Gorge ceramics industries, including porcelain from the Coalport China Works just across the river – much smoother by boat than by 19th century roads.

For some fascinating old photos and more history from Jackfield please visit From Shropshire And My Shins Are Sharp blog.

Wandering back to the car past The Boat Inn’s neighbouring cottages we didn’t see much obvious sign of flood damage there, only the clump of celandines and primroses by a cottage gatepost which seemed like a sign of hopefulness and recovery. Here they are again.

IMG_7132

Yesterday Was A Blue Sky Day

IMG_7110

It seems the hyperactive Polar Jet Stream has been responsible for the last few months excessive weather events in the northern hemisphere. This particular ‘river in the sky’ (there are others) apparently rips across the globe between the Arctic and the sub-tropical zone at the height of a trans-Atlantic plane. It can be up to 3 miles thick and between 1,000-3,000 miles long. And at this time of year it travels between 300 and 400 miles per hour. You can find out all about it at The Jet Stream.

Anyway last week the weather person promised us a break from its more obvious machinations, and said we were in for some bright, cold weather starting Monday.

And so it happened. Yesterday we woke to wall to wall blue sky, sunshine, fluffy clouds and coolly crisp air. And no rain! So to boost any signs of flagging spirits and counteract the effluent spewed daily by our mass media we set off for the wide open loveliness of Attingham Park for a big dose of fresh air and some brisk exercise.

IMG_7010

When we arrived there we found several hundred other people had had the same idea.  Hoards of mothers-and-toddlers, multitudes of dog owners with multiple canines, and a whole bunch of ‘at risk’ age-group folks like us. The several car parks were almost full to bursting.

IMG_7111

The National Trust staff, mostly volunteers, were their usual welcoming selves, and soon all the visitors were well dispersed across the parkland. In places around the deer park, where there are several gates to deal with, I noticed that everyone we met was opening them with their elbows and in like manner holding them open for others. At which point I decided it truly was impossible to get a complete grip on how one should react to this current Covid-19 drama.

IMG_7105

As I’m writing this I can hear the rumble of the farmer’s tractor in the field behind the house, monster arms of the spraying gear outstretched, giving the emerging crop a food boost. At the front of the house the traffic is still dashing by to Telford. Earlier I spotted Mr and Mrs vicar passing by on their daily dog walk. They stopped to chat with other walkers. The postman delivered the post.  People (some exceedingly aged since that’s a significant feature of Wenlock’s demographic) have been walking by into town to do their shopping…

IMG_7001

So yes. I was glad we went out yesterday. There was still quite a lot of flood water standing in the park, but the hawthorns and willows were bursting green. The daffodils were out. I found a crop of violets complete with butterfly. We saw a pair of ravens, making their cronk-cronking calls and doing a spot of aerial somersaulting. Jackdaws were cavorting; blue tits twittering, and the fallow deer looking frisky. And then of course we also saw the 650-year-old Repton Oak (see previous post). So much to be pleased about. Lots to be thankful for and wonder at.

IMG_7045

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

#EarthMagic

Still Going At 650 Years Old

IMG_7088

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.

IMG_7084

 

#EarthMagic