The Changing Seasons ~ August And The Turn Of The Year

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There’s been a sense of autumn happening all month. The wheat harvest began extra early, some weeks ago in fact, then stalled during heavy rain, then started up again, the combines’ drone resounding from the hills around the town. But over the hedge behind the house the crop remains uncut, though it received its chemical drench last week, the mega-tractor leaving great tracks of smashed crop as it sprayed – a herbicide no doubt. It’s not my wheat of course, but somehow I find this a disturbing sight, though quickly suppose there must be a ready reckoner knack for weighing up the benefit of bad weed removal over good crop loss. Now it is raining again and by yesterday the ears that were pale ochre had acquired a coppery glow. At this rate the grains will take a lot of drying out, and we’ll be hearing the grain driers’ drone instead. When activated, they go all night. Or that’s my impression.

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But as to the autumnal feelings, the lime trees have a lot to answer for. After magnificent flushes of tiny green blossoms that filled the byways with delicious scent, the flowers’ seed wings have fallen everywhere in drifts, filling the gutters, strewing the Linden Walk like so much sea litter,  and thereby also doing a very good impression of autumn leaves before we’re ready for them.

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We’ve had high summer intervals too, days when the garden has been filled with blossoms, bees and butterflies, and especially Painted Ladies which have appeared in huge numbers this year, apparently on a reproductive a high in a ten-year cycle. There have been lots of Gatekeeper butterflies too, and Peacocks and Tortoiseshells and Commas. Also Cabbage Whites, which I’m not at all keen on, since no vegetable defence system seems secure against the breeding imperative. The guerrilla garden over the fence has been spectacular, and the garden within very pleasing, if unruly.

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At the allotment all the gardeners are heavily into ‘harvest home’ mode – baskets of runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes being gathered, armfuls of dahlias, asters and gladioli borne home to share with friends and neighbours. The place is alive with pollinators of every kind, flocks of Gatekeepers and Painted Ladies on the abandoned plots where teasels, verbena and oregano are running rampant among the weeds; lots of bees in my butter bean blossoms and courgette flowers too.

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So all in all, things in Wenlock have been pretty good this August, and we are very lucky to be here. The weather may be weird, our democratic system such as it is coming apart at the seams, no one really knowing what Brexit will mean, but Rip Van Winkle Land is alive and well, and just to prove it, here’s a somnolent evening view of the town from the allotment.

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons: August 2019

It’s A Small World ~ Over The Garden Fence

Most of you who come here often will know that over our garden fence beside  the field path we have been encouraging a wilderness garden to flourish. Most of it is not on our land, and so we call it ‘the guerrilla garden’, referencing a movement that began some years back and involved certain UK citizens going around, often under the cover of darkness, establishing gardens in derelict and unsightly corners of public spaces.

Our version was aimed at encouraging bio-diversity, mostly of the insect kind. It is wholly unplanned and includes some cultivated herbaceous species i.e. those that had grown too uncontainable in our small garden and had to be set free, the crab apple that had to be moved when the garden steps were being rebuilt, wild flowers sown and invaded, and quite a few weeds. I don’t do much to it beyond a big tidy up in the autumn, though I do have to tackle the fieldside margins now and then to stop the thistles and brambles from taking over.

Anyway, the ensuing floral jungle is a great source of pleasure for six months of the year, and once you start peering over the fence to study it whole hours can pass. So here’s a glimpse of some of what goes on there . I should perhaps warn you before you set off, the photo of the Mullein Moth caterpillar is very much larger than life. Also, who can spot the crab spider in the close-up of the Giant Mullein flowers? And anyone who has more accurate identifications of the ‘?beetles’ and hoverflies (Pete?) please shout up.

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Lens-Artists: Detail This week Patti sets the challenge.

For more about the Lens-Artists photo challenge go HERE

 

Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

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Yesterday morning he who presently spends his time making a scale model of a static steam engine, surprised me by abandoning house and shed to take part in the orchid count on Windmill Hill. We had the first count last year, but this year the orchids are far more numerous. The hill is in the care of the Windmill Trust, a group of local volunteers, and in the past the limestone grassland was mostly kept in check by a flock of small ponies, brought in to graze at the end of summer. Unfortunately the little ponies had to be sold, so last year at summer’s end  the Windmill Trust had the hill mowed, the hay baled and dispatched to the local riding centre and the ground harrowed. It’s certainly given the purple pyramidal orchids a boost, though later when I went up the hill to see for myself, apart from the pyramids, I could only find this single Bee Orchid and one Spotted Orchid, though I was probably a bit late for the latter; they anyway prefer the parts of the hill where the soil is less calcareous.

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With all the rain we’ve had, the grasses are knee-high and the orchids not as conspicuous as they usually are. But there are also masses of other limestone meadow flowers: wild thyme, mallow, agrimony, viper’s bugloss, knapweed, thistles, ladies bedstraw, hop trefoil, vetches, yellow rattle, cinquefoil, brambles, St. John’s Wort and hawkweeds. The place was alive with insects too – not only bees, but also blue damsel- and dragon flies and masses of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies. Also a Common Blue. I didn’t see the peregrine falcon though that Graham had seen in the morning, but I went home thinking what a treasure place is Windmill Hill.

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P.S. Hot off the press come the orchid count results: 3,574 pyramidal orchids (compared to 864 last year); 129 spotted orchids; 15 bee orchids.

 

Six Word Saturday

Monochrome Lines And Angles ~ A View from the Allotment

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Perverse, I know, to be featuring this wintery scene as summer arrives in the northern hemisphere. Still, it seems to fit quite well with this week’s b & w challenge over at Cee’s. I’m thinking too that those poor souls who are presently being broiled by unnatural heatwaves across Europe might be glad of a cooling vista.

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Lines and Angles

The Changing Seasons ~ This Was Wenlock In May

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Last May the field behind the house was a yellow sea of oil seed rape flowers. This May the rape has only been visible on more distant hillsides around the town and I’ve rather missed having it on my doorstep and walking the golden arcade through the crop where the farmer’s big tractor had left a barren track during spraying.  This year the rape bloomed extra early too, is already running to seed – which perhaps means chances of a better harvest; last year’s crop was scorched in the heat wave and shed much of its seed before it could be cut.

Elsewhere around the town we’ve been watching greenery happen. This next photo shows the Linden Walk on the 30th April. The one below it was taken yesterday, the 31st May. I noticed the pale flowering wings are already well formed, though the tiny buds were still tight shut, and I thought of their heavenly scent to come.

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In the Cutlins meadow members of the MacMoo clan have been absent for a couple of weeks. Then on Thursday we saw they were back. There they were dreaming amongst the lush grass and knee-high buttercups.

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On the home front all is blooming. Yesterday morning I found our front garden – the one that slopes down to the main road – positively heaving with small bumble bees. The orange verbascum flowers had reached just the right state of ripeness, and the bees were gorging on them. The sparrows, too, have been enjoying the front garden, which goes to show – even a small roadside plot can make a bit of a wildlife sanctuary.

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The Changing Seasons: May 2019

Wishing Su a speedy recovery from the flu.

Today In The Garden ~ Granny’s Bonnets Galore

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I’ve said before there’s a lot goes on in our garden that has little to do with me. This month’s aquilegia/columbine/granny’s bonnets invasion is just one of them.  Year after year they self-seed and appear in subtly new colour variations. Sometimes the mauve palette predominates, sometimes the pink and claret. This year there are several white ones with mauve hints, and also some new salmon pink ones that have chosen to grow in amongst the Gloire de Dijon climbing rose which is just about to break into blooms of the very same shade. Makes you wonder if the Grannies have more than bees in their bonnets. I mean, did they plan this?

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Out in the guerrilla garden (between our back fence and the field) the Grannies are growing in thickets. They have also crept round to front garden for the first time this year, though last year I did plant a species yellow one out there (a plant rescued from an abandoned allotment plot) in hopes that in time it might mingle with the residents and create some new shades.

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And then besides the Granny’s Bonnets, there are the self-gardening Welsh poppies, forget-me-nots and perennial geraniums (which also mingle and change colour). Soon there will be foxgloves and corn cockles, and if we’re lucky, the opium poppies may visit us again. When friends ask us if we’re going away, we always feel a touch bemused. With so much going coming and going outside the back door, why would we need to?

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Whenever we can, we sit on the bench at the top of the garden, stare at clouds (though there wasn’t a single one this morning when I took these photos), listen to the racketing of rooks, the keening call of buzzards, watch the jackdaws fly over, hear the garden buzz, observe the wood across the wheat field as it changes in shade and texture day by day, exchange greetings with a passing walker on the field path. And we think – this is a good place to be; a very good place.

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April’s Changing Seasons: Leaves, Lambs And A New MacMoo

 

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We’ve had three seasons this April – spring, summer and winter, some frost, lots of cold wind, a week of barbeque weather, more wind (thank you Storm Hannah), but no April showers, or at least only a couple of days’ worth. And now spring is back and we have leaves – lots and lots in their best, shiniest, juiciest green. In the last ten days the Linden Walk has turned from this:

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…to this:

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Also this week we have a new Highland bull calf in the Cutlins meadow. This morning as we were lingering on the path watching him, an elderly Wenlockian passing with her West Highland terrier informed us that the proud mother is a Welsh champion. We agreed she certainly has a fine set of horns, but she doesn’t strike us as the sort of cow who would be much impressed by awards. While we were there she was anyway much engaged with a tree stump trying to relieve a very tenacious itch. Meanwhile young MacMoo was attempting to muscle in on the scene.

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The magpie in the last shot looks to have found a handy source of nesting material.

And now a general Wenlock April round up.

 

The Changing Seasons

Pop over to Su’s for more changing seasons.

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