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Unusual front gardens #34: Terracotta

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This was a local discovery by some of my friends towards the back end of last year. I knew I had to walk over sometime to see this cheerful tableau for myself and a couple of days ago I found the ideal opportunity during my ongoing quest to walk on every street in Chippenham. I hope it cheers you up too. I wonder what happened to Bill and Ben ?

Wildflower Wednesday: A New Year Plant Hunt

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  Since 2012 the BSBI (the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland) has conducted its New Year Plant Hunt . Wildflower lovers from all over the UK walk round their local patch over the first few days for a few hours at the start of January and record what they see fully in bloom. Overall (and surprisingly), over 500-600 different species may be found depending on the survey year, with around 40 not uncommon on an individual walk. The top 5 finds last year were the dandelion and daisy, plus groundsel, annual meadow-grass, and common chickweed. The counts each year may vary, but the collection of survey information over a number of years helps identify any trends. The project aims to find out how our wildflowers are responding to changes in autumn and winter weather patterns, and over the few years it's been going, changes have been seen already.The use of volunteers as 'citizen scientists', means a much wider area can be covered and in greater numbers than our scientists

Travels in mind

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With our third Lockdown in full swing it's easy to start thinking about the places we can't go and slip into the slough of despond. Once again, I've found walking and the #walk1000miles challenge offers me a way out of this sad state of affairs. We're currently confined much closer to home and my neighbourhood's muddy pathways* have turned my thoughts towards alternatives to get some rest from them. As a result I've revived one of my walking projects, namely to walk on every street in Chippenham aka 'street bashing'**. It's turned what could be seen as boring urban walks into regular treasure troves. It's surprising what discoveries can be made just by being forced to look more closely at the everyday familiar***. Streets with nature names like Primrose Way and Willowbank have proved an avenue of pleasure and it's been fun to try and match the real thing to the names on my travels. This week, I'm walking in an area of town where the stree

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Flowers for the New Year

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It's time for the annual flower census, where I pay particular attention to what's in bloom at VP Gardens in the new year. It's the only time I do this; my reasoning is there's plenty of interest at other times of the year, and if January has something, then I must be doing something right. As a result it's the only time I can do an exact comparison between the years and it's good to have that. Of course, the weather has a major role to play in what's actually there. There are always some surprises. The main one this year was daffodils in bloom before Christmas. Even more surprising is they've continued to bloom, despite almost two whole weeks of below average temperatures laced with ice and hoar frost. They actually flowered a few days ahead of the snowdrops and I'm pleased to find the snowdrops are now restoring order to the seasonal world with their delightful display both in the garden and on the public land next door. Here's this year's

Unusual Front Gardens #33: Turning Japanese

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  My frequent walks into town last year revealed Chippenham has its very own Japanese-style rock garden , sometimes also known as a zen garden. It's been covered with leaves most times I've passed by, but just before Christmas the owner had tidied it up and raked the gravel into the desired lines representing water ripples around the rocks. I like its simplicity. I wonder if the owner finds it a calming and meditative experience to maintain it.

A year in cats

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This week we said our final goodbyes to NAH's aunt, who passed away peacefully in early December at the grand age of 94. With her passing we no longer have any distance caring responsibilities, plus the elder Chapman baton has passed to NAH and and his elder brother. I'm finding it quite hard to adjust to these circumstances, as part of what's made me who I am the past 13 years or so is no longer there. In the meantime, I've spent quite a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking about the good times with my aunt-in-law, who was a lot of fun and the source of many of our good times. Part of her lasting legacy is the family's love of cats and the annual cat calendar. For many years a December delight was the Whiskas one plopping onto our doormat; she'd saved many a label from her cat's favourite tinned food to provide this regular event. Whiskas stopped doing their calendar around 10 years ago, and we took on the mantle of providing one, firstly with photo

Seasons Greetings!

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I don't often 'play' with my photos after I've taken them, but as soon as I'd used a posterize app on this cheeky little robin in my garden, I simply knew I had to use it as this year's Christmas card. Have a wonderful festive season, no matter what life has thrown at you this year. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Weekend wandering: A fresh look at Poinsettias

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I've tended to pass poinsettias by in the run up to Christmas, but this tasteful display in a local florist's window during my recent wander around town made me pause and think again. They're quite an unusual plant, so here's a little more about them... They originally hail from Mexico, where they were valued by the Aztecs, who used them to decorate their temples and also thought they represented a new life for warriors who'd perished in battle. Another Aztec legend says the plants red bracts represents the blood of a goddess who died of a broken heart. This inspired the plant's French name, Etoile d’amour  aka Star of Love.  Poinsettias became more widely known following a botanical expedition to Mexico in 1803. It was named as a new species, Euphorbia pulcherrima by Johann Friedrick Klotzsch in 1834. The name poinsettia comes from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US official to Mexico, who was an avid botanist and brought it back to the United States in the

Weekend Wandering: Festive Chippenham

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My walks have seen me in the centre of Chippenham a lot more lately because it's taken on quite a festive air. Whilst Christmas is set to be a much quieter affair this year, it's time to celebrate what's actually happening to cheer us up out there. It also means there's a chance of surprises - like the well-known local rider who often brings his horse down the traffic-free high street. Sunday's get up meant he was stopped quite a bit on his travels! There's a charming  Joy of Christmas window display which consists of artwork from 24 talented residents - both children and adults - together with their thoughts on what makes them joyful at this time of year. The canny town council have placed these in the windows of civic buildings and also at some of our independent shops. As a result the trail covers quite an extensive area and I found some not-known-to-me before shops which I plan to return to. I was also pleased to my friend W 's work is one selected for