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Showing posts from 2020

Thinking about trees

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I've been thinking about trees a lot lately: partly because it's National Tree Week currently, but mainly because they've featured prominently on my walks over the past few weeks. It's been a spectacular autumn and even now there are still a few leaves left providing a last shot of colour to brighten the first few days of winter. When they're gone, their structural forms will still be there, quietly doing their thing and helping to lift my mood. There is much to be grateful for in their sturdy presence. I've said before we're blessed with whoever selected the trees for our estate and I was pleased to find Chippenham now has its own Mr Treeman again. He's new to the job as the town council has only recently taken over the management of our open spaces from the county council and NAH found him surveying the trees by us earlier this week.  I hope he approves of the choice trees we have alongside the usual suspects. I made my own discovery a couple of mont

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: To Walk

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This photo may not look that enticing but it's deceptive as it shows the start of a marvellous adventure I've had this year. It's the footpath which runs by the side of our house and marks the beginning of nearly all the walks I take locally. When I set myself the goal of walking 1,000 miles in 2020 my heart said yes and my head said no. It's a mind boggling number and even dividing it by 366 didn't make the target seem any easier. Could I really walk 2.73 or so miles every day ? The answer to that question is no, because I didn't walk every day... but on many of them I walked far in excess of my daily walk allowance. It took my head nearly three months to acknowledge that it might, just might be possible. Then in March NAH had his heart attack and Lockdown happened and amongst all the angst and sleepless nights walking kept me going. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other helped calm my whirling mind. I deliberately parked my car in Bristol fa

Seasonal Recipe: Tomato and squash au gratin

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This recipe has come quite a long way since I first made it in August when my brother-in-law and wife came to stay. It's derived from a Delia recipe  which involves courgettes and I've adapted it to make it more heart friendly. It was well received and I've continued to make it to hoover up our plentiful courgette crop, until last month when I only had a small one left. However, I also had a teeny tiny winter squash which combined with the courgette was a complete revelation. The squash added lots of flavour and I resolved to continue with today's recipe to use up all the smaller ones from this year's crop. This week's variation was by accident when I sliced some of the squash so thinly, they were more like crisps when they came out of the oven. This got a huge thumbs up from NAH and the request for more like this in future. This has become a weekend favourite of ours for supper, served with a jacket potato, a large salad and a tasty dressing. Those wishing to k

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Anemone 'Frilly Knickers'

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I'm delighted one of my latest plant purchases has managed to flower in time for this month's Blooms Day . May I introduce you to Anemone 'Frilly Knickers' ? She may be looking a bit ruffled around the edges, but she's not bad for a small plant bought in September at Malvern's Plant and Garden Fair and planted into her new home last month ready for next year. This is a completely new, award winning introduction for 2020 and one of the plants on my shopping list when I saw Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants were exhibiting at the Fair. This is a mutation of Anemone 'Dreaming Swan' , spotted on the nursery as a potential good 'un and named by Rosy Hardy herself. I had a lot of fun tweeting to Rob Hardy prior to the show, to tell him I was looking forward to seeing his 'Frilly Knickers'. It was a good way of introducing myself on the day and we had a long, good humoured chat, especially when we found we had Marylyn Abbott of West Green House

Weekend Wandering: The priority postbox

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A sunny day earlier in the week, a new walk to explore courtesy of the Bremhill Parish History Group , and a good friend* to explore it with, what could be better? A new-to-me discovery in the shape of the pictured postbox was the icing on the cake.  Not only is it a particularly attractive one, it also bears the intriguing sticker " Priority Postbox ". A little light googling when I returned home tells me this is one of 35,000 in the country which are standing by to accept completed home coronavirus test kits. Apparently special arrangements are needed to ensure kits are collected promptly (from postboxes and homes) to maximise the chance of a correct result for the test taken. Unsurprisingly the one closest to me is at Chippenham's main sorting office, a short walk away, though the two actually on our estate aren't included in the scheme. This one is at Charlcutt , a tiny hamlet of 20 properties in the heart of Wiltshire's countryside. It's a reassuring find

How advertising works in Chippenham #40

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Realise you need to say something about social distancing on your High Street Find distinctive places for it to go Get the new signage printed and installed Wait for a blogger with a camera to notice it says the magic word  Welcome Et voilĂ  ! There are so many reminders out there these days on what we must do in public places in our new normal. I applaud Chippenham for being that little bit different by also taking the opportunity to welcome everyone. It was heartening to walk into town yesterday during our first weekend of Lockdown 2.0 to find it was quieter but still relatively bustling. Fingers crossed it remains that way after this annus horribilis .

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: A good fragrance

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The author may have been referring to perfume in his novel , but I've been musing on the very same thing lately whenever I walk past the pictured oleaster hedge (aka Eleagnus x ebbingei ) on my daily walk. Most of the time it barely merits a second glance as it looks pretty dowdy (in my view) which serves its purpose perfectly as a tough plant bordering a public footpath and requires little in the way of maintenance. All that has changed over the past few weeks due to its knockout scent which I can smell at least 50 yards away; from even further if the wind blows towards me. It brings back such a powerful memory as it's just like the smell of the suntan lotion mum used to rub into me on our summer holidays. It was a tropical scent which came out of a white bottle with an orange cap, I forget the brand, but ohhhhh the smell. One waft from that hedge and I'm back in Cornwall or The Gower , itching to wrest myself from mum's grasp and explore every pebble and rock pool t

A mast year

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It's been almost impossible to go out for a walk lately and not get bonked on the head by a falling acorn or beech nut. The paths through the woods are strewn with the trees' bounty, far too much for the squirrels to hide away as is their usual wont. I'm sure they're as busy as they usually are; they just can't keep up with what's available. I was reminded recently of the term mast year , which describes exactly what we're experiencing this autumn. My reasoning on why this is happening is: We had a mild, wet winter so the trees had a good drink and had plenty of opportunity to prime themselves ready for spring without snow, frost and ice getting in the way Blossom came early, and for once it wasn't blown away by a winter storm or loosened by a frost It was a warm spring so the bees and other pollinators maximised their activities in the sunshine They were so efficient that even the later spring and early summer drought wasn't sufficient to bring frui

Unusual Front Gardens #32: Unexpected item in the parking area

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This is a new addition to one of the local routes I walk on a regular basis. There are more questions than its presence answers... if it ever gets used I think we'll know about it! Update: I bumped into the owner on my walk the other day, a quite young chap who was loading it onto a trailer. He admitted it was 'a random purchase' made under lockdown as a project for him to get it into working order again. He was taking it to a friend's field to test it out, after all as he said, 'I'm not taking it onto the water until I know it doesn't leak'. Then it's off to winter storage, so this particular walk is set to look more normal again. Just replacing the skirt cost him £1,000 and by a strange coincidence one of my friends told me her dad used to make them when he worked for Avon tyres in Melksham.  What discoveries have you made out walking this year?

Exbury excellence

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October days are rather special at Exbury Gardens , not only for autumn colour, but also for their amazing collection of nerines . You may remember I visited last spring for their centenary year ; it's always good to return in a different season to see what a garden has to offer. A gorgeously sunny day last week and the trees nearing their peak autumn colour meant it didn't disappoint. Before we have a proper wander around the garden, The Five Arrows Gallery is the place to be with its special exhibition of Exbury's nerines. These are the stars of the collection this year and includes a selection of the new hybrids picked out by garden director Nicholas de Rothschild and Theo Herselman, who heads up the Nerine and Lachenalia collections. There are also plants to buy here, some of them available for the first time. They are that new. Here's Theo just after this year's exhibition opened, photo courtesy of Chris Stephens of Otso Creative. I bumped into Theo at the glas

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'

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Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' is a late summer stalwart on my patio. I have a longish narrow bed in the corner, dominated by a fig tree and with a couple of winter flowering clematis growing up our neighbour's garage wall. This is a perennial sunflower, which grows to 5 or 6 feet tall, with lighter yellow flowers than most of its perennial and annual cousins. Personally, I think the lighter lemon suits the softer rays of autumn's sunshine. This area doesn't have a decent depth of soil, which is fine for the fig, but at the height of summer my sunflowers suffer a little. As a consequence this is the only garden bed which gets an additional watering, usually the waste water from our kitchen. I now have a couple of options to consider: either to build up the soil depth with a thick mulch so my sunflowers fare better, or to replace them with something else. Earlier in the year I was all for replacing them with raspberries as part of my Allotment at Home endeavours as th

A mindfulness walk

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Two years ago we visited Rufford Old Hall whilst on holiday in Lancashire. I spotted they had a Mindfulness Walk leaflet at the entrance and when NAH said he needed his post lunch nap, I decided to try it. I found it most calming and since then I've adapted it for my own garden. I've found it a useful way to start the day, even when it's raining and seeing today is World Mental Health Day , I thought you might like to see it too. Note, I'm not a mental health expert, nor a trained practitioner in any way, but if the following helps just one person, then I'm happy it's done some good. I've deliberately created some cards rather than using photos of my own garden to help make it suitable for any time of the year and I hope that'll make it easier for you to adapt too. Feel free to choose a different order to the one shown for your own circumstances, and/or omit any steps that don't 'speak' to you, though I recommend doing the Breathe part as a

Dahlia delight at Chenies Manor

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  I had a glorious afternoon at Chenies Manor House  last week and here's a view of the delicious Grade I listed property from the gardens to show off its setting. Those twisted chimneys tell us it dates back to Tudor times and I later found out their maker went on to build the famous ones at Hampton Court. The place has a 'settled in' feel about it which sits perfectly at home with its surroundings and village, probably because there's been a manor house there since Anglo Saxon times, if not earlier. It makes for a relaxing place to explore. The garden's planting is structural yet romantic and divided into several 'rooms'. It's noted for its dahlias at this time of the year and they were opulent and delightful. Another strong feature were the sculptures which added a contemporary note to the Tudor influenced design. I feel I've been following a particular sculptor around the past few weeks - Jenny Pickford -  the creator of the floral sculpture you