Thursday, 30 June 2016

Through the garden gate in June

This picture below shows the high and lows of the garden this June - roses and lots of rain!

 We have had so many days of rain that many of my images are drenched with rain drops. There is a certain beauty to the droplets of rain if you take a closer look!

This was a rare moment of early morning sunlight - our solar panels have shown that the sunshine hours and power generated in June is much less than April or May, despite this the flowers have still made a colourful appearance.

It looks as if I am doing a take over the vegetable garden. My cutting garden seems to be spreading into another bed (don't tell my other half!). We have enjoyed our first harvest of  rhubarb, strawberries and courgettes.

The scent of honeysuckle and roses have filled the air.....

 I have been so pleased with the lupins and borage that I have grown successfully from seed and inspired by Freda I produced a big vase of flowers from the garden, Flower arranging isn't my forte, so it does looks a bit wild! What has been your favourite flower or produce this month?

If anyone else is joining in Through the garden gate this month please let me know in the comments below.

Sarah x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Some calm moments

As the sun set on Thursday evening we headed to Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock for a late evening stroll, it was a such a beautiful evening......

The highlight for me was suddenly hearing this bird singing mixed with the sounds of the waves lapping the shore....

We were unable to see the bird but it's song was strong,clear and beautiful. Many poets have described it's mournful tones and joyous sound. I have always longed to hear the nightingale sing, last year we took a walk in a wood at dusk, there was no bird song and the woods were so dark and eerie even Tavi wasn't keen to walk there! It is always when you aren't looking for something that you find it!

I was saddened to see the results of the referendum on EU membership and the chaos that has ensued. It seems to have divided the country and it is so sad that we can't stand and work together for the common good.

The EU is a long way from being perfect but the environmental legislation that has been passed has given us cleaner beaches and drinking water,less air pollution and greater wildlife protection. It will be even a huge step backwards if these standards are not upheld in the future.

Sarah x

Monday, 20 June 2016

Returning to nature

Last week we were given a guided tour around a nature reserve on Portland ....

Rosy garlic and white valerian

Birds foot trefoil, hop trefoil and cat's ear (the large yellow flower.)

Viper Bugloss

Common blue butterfly

It was lovely to see all the wild flowers, especially when they were growing in a hostile environment, amongst the rocky landscape seen below.

This is King Barrow Quarry,a disused quarry on the Isle of Portland. This island is famous for it's limestone. The island is 6 km long by 2.7 km wide. The causeway permanently links it to the Dorset coastline at Weymouth. Once there was over 100 quarries on the island, six are still operating today. The stone has been used over the centuries in the construction or facing of many public buildings in London, including St Paul's Cathedral,Whitehall, the Cenotaph and Trafalgar Square. After the Second World War Portland stone was widely used in those towns and cities that had been badly damaged e.g. Plymouth, Bristol and Coventry. It was also used in all the Commonwealth grave stones.

Historically the stone would have been extracted using hand tools - see this old  British Pathe film ,which shows the methods used. The pieces of rock that weren't required were left strewn over the landscape. Dorset Wildlife Trust have given nature a helping hand - invasive plants such as cotoneaster have been removed by hand and the wild flowers have been nurtured and encouraged to spread. On the site we also found bee and pyramid orchids and the remains of a fossil tree (the images of which were difficult to capture, we had several heavy downpours!)

The modern day mining next door to King Barrow looks so different. However the mining companies  are now working with the Wildlife Trust to ensure that the best outcome is achieved when the mine is no longer operational.

 The remains of another quarry on the other side of the reserve, had previously been used as a landfill tip, the metal poles allowing the escape of methane gas.

The landscape around Dartmoor in Devon, also shows remnants of past generations - from bronze age huts and circles to old mine workings. The area around Tavistock, in particular, was industrial with tin,copper,iron and arsenic being mined.

It was only after we had been visiting this area for a number of years, that we discovered my husband's ancestors had lived and worked here.With the help of national lottery funding, a wide range of walks and cycle paths have opened up. Last year we took one of these walks through the woods and ended up at the great console, which was a series of mines.

There was a huge mountain of arsenic waste, which was all fenced off, a look out area with signs warning everyone to keep to the paths. To my surprise, on one of the noticeboards I discovered a picture of William Morris, who was well-known for setting up the Arts and Craft movement and who was against industrialisation. His family had owned one of the mines here and he had been given some shares and for a period of time sat on the board of the mine.

This part of his life seemed such a contrast to the beautiful flowers and patterns he created. I was intrigued by this, and carried out more research once I had returned home. He has always been a bit of a hero of mine, with his philosophy of a simple life and his words of "only have what you believe to be beautiful or useful in your home " have been a manta of mine for many years. It seems that the wallpapers he created used arsenic to create the green colours, This resulted in some people contracting arsenic poisoning with fatal results..

When the mines finally shut down here, the land was planted with pine trees to help prevent soil erosion and it is now a haven of wildlife.

Do you have any past industrial landscapes on your doorstep that have returned to nature ? I would love to hear about them.
Sarah x

Monday, 13 June 2016

Hazy Days

It's been quite hazy every day along this search of coast this week. We woke up one morning at 4.30 and were quite surprised to see it was already quite light outside. We decided to take an early morning drive to Lyme Regis.

The Cobb Lyme Regis

We had the whole landscape almost to ourselves, apart from the lone paddle boarder, and fisherman. The distant cliffs providing a beautiful darker blue back-drop.

Looking towards Lyme Regis from the Cobb, we took time to admire the pastel coloured beach huts, and pretty cottages that line the esplanade.

The beach had already been raked smooth, the imprint of footsteps from the first swimmer of the day and a seagull, leaving indentions in the sand. 

We had time to admire the many pretty cottages tucked in the little lanes behind the ancient harbour

before our favourite coffee shop Amid giants and idols opened for business. It produces the most amazing coffee. It's the best we have ever had and whenever we feel we need a real coffee hit we always head over to Lyme Regis!  The taste lingers such a long time after you have drunk the coffee. It is located near the top of the town opposite the library so if you love coffee and find yourself in Lyme, do visit as you also will be guaranteed a warm welcome. Do you have any special coffee shops in your area? I always avoid the national chains as the local coffee shops offer so much more and we are spoilt for choice.

As I mentioned ages ago I handed in my notice in January, after working for the same organisation for 34 years. I have been gradually been reducing my hours since my resignation, and I am now on a bank contract for a few more weeks working only one day a week. It has already made such a difference to our lives.

The reduction of income is obviously a disadvantage but there are many advantages too, including staying in this beautiful location all day, feeling so much more relaxed, no longer having that Monday morning feeling and just having more time to talk to family, friends and meeting new people, and spending more time at home or in the garden.

We need to create a  new simpler life and I am in the process of setting up new routines with the help of Down to earth and Fly Lady. I think the key to our way of life is to more organised and by doing tasks often and before they become too big to tackle.

I am also involved in a number of voluntary projects which either involve history, gardening or green issues. This morning I was taught how to scythe, it was hard work but more satisfying than working out in the gym and or using a strimmer. (After I had published this post Libby pointed me at this post she had written about the The Meadow at Sissinghurst the video is lovely and sums up what I thought about scything. These  words are an extract from Vita's poem about the Garden.

What pleasant sounds: the scythe in the wet grass
Where ground's too rough for the machine to pass,
(Grass should be wet for a close cut, the blade
Hissing like geese as swathe by swathe is laid;)
The pigeons on the roof, the hives aswarm;
June is the month of sounds. They melt and merge
Softer than shallow waves in pebbled surge
Forward and backward in a summer cove;
The very music of the month is warm,
The very music sings the song of love.

Thank you for all your comments, wishing you a happy week.
Sarah x

Monday, 6 June 2016

Coastal wild flowers

The cliffs are covered in wild flowers at the moment. It is wonderful sight. and as usual I have taken too many pictures - this is only a selection!

Daisies are everywhere!

The yellow birds-foot trefoil is a wonderful source of nectar and pollen to bees. I was amazed to discover that it has over 70 different names! These range from Eggs and bacon, Butter and Eggs, Hens and chickens, Dutchmen's clogs and Lady slippers. A less attractive name is Granny's toe nails, which like the bird foot describes the claw like seed pods. Many years ago we had a friend visiting us who was an wildlife expert, and of all the plants in our garden he was most excited to see a patch of this flower in a forgotten corner! Is there any other names that you associate this plant with?

The Valerian flower in both it's white and pink form are also in abundance. Once it finds somewhere happy to grow it will spread and seed happily! We introduced a plant in our previous front garden and it ended up appearing in many of the neighbouring gardens too! It is also another good plant for bees and butterflies.

The next plant is I think, Milk Thistle, it too has many other names including Mediterranean Thistle, Mary's thistle and Scottish thistle. You can recognise it by the milk like sploshes on the leaves and the milky white sap when the leaves are crushed. It is amazing to think that it has been used medically for the last 2,000 years to treat liver complaints.

At this time of year the sea thift creates dense mats of pink along the cliffs and shoreline. It is at it's best in May and June.

Along the Chesil beach even when the sky looks so grey there are colourful plants to be found in this hostile environment. The silvery grey plants are sea kale, which are just coming into flower. Has anyone tried growing this in the garden? It was recommended at a talk we went to last year. You can purchase the seeds from seed merchants. It was considered a delicacy in Victorian times and it was almost pushed to extinction. It has recently become very popular with chefs and is now being grown on a commercial basis. It's tender shoots can be eaten like asparagus and the young leaves can be used much like spinach even the flowers are edible. It is also known as scurvy grass as it used to be pickled and taken on long sea journeys to prevent scurvy.

The white flowers of sea campion, it looks a pretty little flower but in folklore it was never picked for fear of tempting death. It was also known as Dead Man's bells and Witches thimbles. I wonder if it is any coincidence that it is found along the shoreline of Deadman's Bay!

 Can anyone identify these beetles?

The yellow horned poppy's name is derived from the colour of the flower and it's seed pod.

Close by was also a huge area of Hemlock, it looks similar to Cow parsley, but this plant is poisonous. The hemlock prefers to grow in damp ground, it's foliage smells mousey and it has purple spots on the stems.

Moving slightly inland, many of the fields around us are full of buttercups and common sorrel. Do you think this lamb (above) likes butter? It has been lovely over the weekend hearing the sound of the sheep drifting over the hedge as we worked in the garden.


The May (Hawthorn) and Cow Parsley are still in full bloom and the Elderflower is just starting to flower and scent the area with it's blossom. We will be making our first batch of Elderflower cordial later. I might even have time this year to make some Elderflower champagne! Which wildflower is the most abundant in your area at the moment?

Apologies for not being around much in blog land this week, the flora, fauna and scenery keeps calling me away from the computer! I am trying to learn the different varieties of plant as I go along so if I have got anything wrong please let me know!

Wishing you a good week ahead!
Sarah x


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