Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 24 June 2016

Comfrey Update

Comfrey 'hedge' on my allotment

It's been a couple of years since I took my first cut of comfrey for my compost heaps, and I'm really pleased how my plants have filled out in their allotted space on the allotment. They make a neat boundary between the compost bins/water butt and the upper growing areas on the plot.

Close up of comfrey flowers

I really like the flowers too. I wonder what else can be tempted in to admire them more closely?

An acrobatic bee on a comfrey flower, with pollen sac clearly on view

Ah yes, the ever acrobatic and hard working bees simply can't get enough of comfrey flowers.

Another bee demonstrates how it uses its hooks to hang onto a comfrey flower

A pause to watch their antics reveals they use the hooks on their legs to cling onto a flower whilst taking their fill of pollen and nectar. There's always something new to learn about bees.

I took these photos before I went on holiday, and seeing it's National Insect Week, now's the perfect time to show them to you.

The bees have taken their fill and the flowers have faded, so it's time post-solstice* to take my first cut to make comfrey feed. I'll be using the dry, pong-free method advocated by James at Yeo Valley Organic Garden and described by Emma Cooper... as soon as I've sourced a suitable lidded container to cram the leaves inside. Note that as my comfrey is the Bocking 14 cultivar, I don't need to heed her warning about seeds, as they're sterile plants.

* pre-solstice, nitrogen-rich feeds such as nettle are made to encourage healthy growth, then post-solstice, a phosphorus/potassium-rich feed - such as comfrey - encourages less sappy growth (needed if plants are to overwinter well), plus flowers and fruiting.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Allotment Folk: Yorkshire Style

Some characters seen on an allotment in Helmsley

The journey from our holiday cottage to the market town of Helmsley proved a favourite one over the past couple of weeks. It took us up Clay Bank (as shown on Sunday's Postcard), then over Bilsdale and Ryedale moors through the most exquisite of upland scenery and a scattering of stone-built villages and farmsteads.

Our main objective for the first of these trips was to visit Helmsley Walled Garden - a blog treat reserved for another day - which I've wanted to visit for quite some time. A stroll around town afterwards proved equally rewarding, especially when I found the Yorkshire version of the Allotment Folk I wrote about recently.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the chap on the left. Evidence of May's Tour de Yorkshire greeted us in most places we visited or travelled through, with all kinds of brightly painted yellow and blue bicycles, oodles of bunting and proud Yorkshire flags providing evidence of the route taken by the race's cyclists.

They may have been long gone, but each village and town's remnant finery served to make us feel cheered and welcome. We found the above scene whilst walking from the castle into town. It was on a long narrow plot, which I suspect is remnant of the burgage plots created when the town was granted its Borough Charter in the late 12th century.

Strictly speaking I'm stretching the term allotment here. Burgage plots are a much earlier beast which consisted of a house with a narrow street frontage plus a long plot of land stretching behind it. These were rented from the local king or lord, and most were cultivated to provide meat and vegetables for the household. Some of the plot's produce may have been included in the tenants' payments, depending on the local rental agreement in force.

Aerial view of Helmsley

If you zoom in on the aerial photo of Helmsley in Google Maps, you can see how these plots have influenced much of the town's central layout by the castle. X marks the spot where I found my Allotment Folk, Yorkshire style.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Postcard from Yorkshire

The How aka mound with trees at Ingleby Greenhow

We've just got back from a wonderful two weeks spent in a cottage tucked just inside the North York Moors National Park. The photo shows you the view at the back of the cottage - a glacial moraine crowned with beech trees; the greenhow from which Ingleby Greenhow takes its name.

You can just see the North York Moors behind the how (from the old Norse haugh which means hill or mound), towards Clay Bank which has the most amazing views across the Cleveland plain.

The view from the how towards our cottage

Here's the view down the hill from the how towards our cottage. The strangely shaped mound you can see in the distance is Roseberry Topping, an icon from NAH's childhood as a walk to the top was a favourite trip of his parents, plus the history and geography of the surrounding area was studied extensively by his mother. Part of the shape is possibly due to the local ironstone and alum works which may have collapsed.

The hill to the right is Easby Moor, home to Captain Cook's Monument, who went to school in Great Ayton - a village overlooked by the monument and one of the larger villages (and a pretty one) close to our base.

Our cottage was smack in the middle of old ironstone and jet mine workings, though you'd never know it as the mines and their noise have long gone. The only sounds we heard were the local butcher's sheep in the field opposite, our cottage owner's horses, owls hooting, and the bubbling cries of lapwings and curlews.

It was a fabulous base for our holiday. There are some garden and other highlights to come...

From the viewpoint at the top of Clay Bank
From the viewpoint at the top of Clay Bank
Our cottage is in the clump of trees in the middle of the fields you can see towards the centre of the photo 

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