30 Days Wild: Day 25-Princess Poppy saves the bees

Today I left a surprise for Alice to find by the front door.

I’ve been meaning to get Alice this book for a while as she has a number of the Princess Poppy picture books. I’d seen Janey Louise Jones had written several Poppy stories with an environmental theme to them and 30 Days Wild seems like a perfect time to get hold of one of them for her.

The book tells the story of how Princess Poppy learns about the disappearance of the bees. It explains a few differences between honey bees and bumblebees. Then it goes into detail of a few things the girls in the story can do to help. The girls arrange to dress as bees for the Summer fair to let people know how they could help bees. It’s an ideal story for using in schools to teach a few basic facts about bees or introduce a science topic. or as a story to enjoy with a child at home. Alice sat and listened well and had lots of interesting questions and observations as we went through it.

One of the suggestions of how to help is to make a bee bath. A shallow tray of water can give thirsty insects a spot to drink without drowning. Then a few stones ensure they have places they can crawl in if they get stuck.

We set it up on the bench near the borage where lots of the bees are visiting.

Then Alice went looking for bees and trying to snap them.

Amy has borrowed one of the more high powered cameras from school to see how much of a difference it makes to the photos having something higher spec. It really did improve the quality of what we could achieve but we can’t afford a swisher camera yet, so just enjoy for a few days.

My camera is a Nikon D3100 which is a decade old. I can manage reasonable photos but nothing too impressive.

And a photo to make Princess Poppy smile.

And a few taken on the fancier camera.

A hoverfly on the lychnis.

Alice went on to tell Amy different bits she’s learnt from the book and she was telling me the bees in the park were bumblebees. And she asked for her new book at bedtime. There is another environmental-themed Poppy story on ‘no plastic‘. We normally do a beach clean as part of our 30 Days Wild. However, with lockdown, we haven’t been going to the beach as much. At the start of lockdown, there wasn’t any rubbish with few visitors whereas now there is a mass of rubbish. But we don’t Alice touching things handled by other people so we’ll have to leave this activity until it’s a bit safer. For now, we’ll concentrate on making our garden a paradise for wildlife.

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Book Review: The complete guide to garden privacy-Alexandra Campbell

Alexandra put out a call for reviews of her first book last week, so in the interest of disclaimer, I have been sent this to review. That said, I was excited to see what she had to say. Alexandra’s website, The middle-sized garden, contains blogs and videos sharing many useful gardening tips. She has written for many magazines and newspapers: the Times, The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and more. Her blog has won many awards over the last few years.

The book is available through Amazon:

Paperback priced £14.36 at time of writing.

Kindle Priced £7.83 or free with Kindle unlimited.

From the blurb:

Find out how to make your garden feel private, no matter how small it is. This book will help you choose the right trees for privacy, find out which hedges are best for privacy, how to select a new garden privacy screen and how to screen eyesores. Create a secret garden or help minimise noise in your garden. Expert tips and advice from The Middlesized Garden, a top award-winning garden blog from the UK.The Complete Guide to Garden Privacy offers practical solutions with easy-to-read diagrams and inspiring photographs of real gardens.

So, this book couldn’t really come at a more opportune moment. With many us contained within our homes and gardens, more people are looking at spending their lockdown time in their gardens. Across the country, people have been discovering gardening for the first time. This is in many ways a fabulous development, gardening brings so many benefits, both physical and mental. But, it means the volume level has gone up. In many gardens, the privacy level is low as the gardens haven’t previously been used. So people are hastily trying to renovate their gardens to make them better spaces. Prior to my work closing, we were seeing good sales in fencing equipment as people looked at upgrading and fixing their existing screens. But there are many ways to add privacy to your garden that this book explores.

Trees can block line of sight to upper store windows

The book covers some basic principles of privacy asking you to think about which key areas do you want to be private. Within a row of gardens, it is almost impossible to make your garden completely private but if you identify key areas you can work to give yourself a secluded area. You may not need the privacy all year round. It may just be that you want privacy in summer when you will be out more. This opens up more seasonal options allowing for light to still reach your house in winter.

A parasol provides privacy from windows

Many of the options discussed are pretty obvious. Hedges and fences can be used to block views. But Alexandra goes into the extra detail of discussing the legal aspects such as where planning permission is needed. Plant lists are included for evergreen and deciduous options. The book makes use of nice clear diagrams throughout to illustrate the points she is making in the text. For example, for a seating area, you don’t necessarily need a high screen. An obstacle of 1.5m will hide you to people when you are sat. This is shown clearly through the diagrams and explanations. Screens, trellis, structures are discussed. A chapter is devoted to privacy in the front garden looking a few different ways I wouldn’t have necessarily thought about to add privacy such as window boxes.

A wall can provide privacy and block some noise.

The final chapter was particularly interesting and relevant right now looking at noise and wind. The wind can carry noise a long way. Alexandra looks at the way sound is carried by the wind over obstacles and discusses ways to increase your privacy.

Euonymus blocking line of sight to the eyesore of the compost heap

 

Overall this is an informative read. I devoured it over two days back and I’m sure I will return to look up aspects again. Anyone who reads her blog will know, Alexandra writes clearly, concisely and presents a lot of information within a relatively small book. It has made me look at the privacy in my own garden differently. I am starting to think out how I can add some extra seclusion to particular areas. I would recommend this book if you have issues with neighbours overlooking your garden or if you are looking at ways you can change your boundaries. This book will show lots of options for making your garden into your own secluded paradise.

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Nature Book Club: Review-A nest is noisy

This week for Nature Book Club I’m returning to look at children’s books. A nest is noisy is a beautifully illustrated book written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. They have worked on a number of books together such as an egg is quiet, a seed is sleepy and a beetle is shy. The book covers many animals that live in nests. Nests aren’t just for birds. Through this book, children can learn about the nests of birds, orangutans, tree frogs, prairie dogs and more.

Each page gives a statement such as a nest is welcoming, then many of the pages have additional information to read if you wish. Children do enjoy non-fiction of this nature. They like facts and knowing details. It’s a book which will lead to more questions encouraging an enquiring mind.

The book is great for developing children’s vocabulary introducing them to technical language in an approachable way. The children learn the names of a number of animals including some more unusual ones.

I’d recommend this book for parents or teachers as a useful tool for widening children’s ideas of how animals live. My favourite book this pair have made together is probably A beetle is shy, but this one probably has a more wide-reaching appeal.

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Nature Book Club: Review-Kathleen Jamie Findings

This week I finished reading Kathleen Jamie’s Findings. I’ve seen this book recommended regularly over the last few years and thought I’d give it a try as it was priced at 99p. Primarily known for her poetry this is a collection of writings covering nature, landscape and history. There is no particular running theme through them apart from taking pleasure in much of the natural world.

The prose has been very well written. The descriptions of her subjects are very evocative taking you along for the journey. The chapters each cover a different subject. We see descriptions of peregrines, of salmon, Neolith cairns, anatomical museums, whale watching and more. The book is fairly short and could be read over a few nights or as each chapter is separate dipped in and out of. Some people might find this a bit annoying. You have no running theme more extended pieces of journalism. This is not writing to inform you. You will find no great factual depth. But each chapter is well written, contemplative and enjoyable enough to lose yourself in. I would possibly have been disappointed in this if I’d paid full price but at 99p it was an enjoyable read over about two hours. I would be willing to try her other books or her poetry.

 

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Nature Book Club: Review-Get your Boots On

This week for Nature Book Club I’d like to take a look at a book I’ve been sent from another Nature Book Club contributor, Alex White. For those of you who don’t know, Alex is and up and coming naturalist. He’s been blogging about nature since he was 13. He is part of many nature groups including a focus on nature, the youth network for connecting young people interested in nature. In 2016 he appeared on Springwatch Unsprung and I do actually remember the segment despite this being before I discovered Alex’s blog. Chris Packham critiqued Alex’s photos. Anyone who knows the Springwatch photo segments will know Chris can be quite harsh in his comments, but he was very supportive, he did critique but was encouraging offering constructive advice. Alex has continued with his blog and working with different nature organisation. Then last year he released his first book, ‘get your boots on‘.

I am not necessarily the key target audience for this book as it is largely geared towards offering advice and support on gaining pleasure in nature to young people. That said, I’ve devoured the book over the last week. The book is split into advice on getting interested and getting out, making connections, gadgets and technology, get competitive, juggling wildlife and your life, activism, next-generation and be open to advice. You’ve got great advice that you can see has come out of Alex’s own experiences. The advice is wide-ranging there are tips on kit, photography, nature groups, exams and lots on being comfortable with yourself. Much of the advice most people learn the hard way such as don’t wear shorts on fieldwork. But here it is offered up for young people to avoid.

From such a young writer you will see many of the reviews of this book using words such as ‘inspirational’, ‘poignant,’ and ‘wonderful’. But these words all fit. This book would have been nice to have when I was a teenager, though I may not have listened to the advice as I was too wrapped up in music obsessions arguing with people over the merits of Black Sabbath and The Smiths and the lack of merit in listening to Coldplay. But we are now living in a period where young people are making their voices heard. The younger generation are very aware of the damage that has been done to our world and want to see changes. Having a book like this written by someone so young is great for showing anyone can make a difference. It is certainly filling a gap in the nature book market as there is no shortage of books aimed at younger children.

The book itself is a nice glossy paperback filled with photos, many taken by Alex himself. Having read it cover to cover I can dip and out finding lots worth rereading. The text is interspaced with sections from his blog and guest contributors adding their advice. Alex has drawn on an amazing list of contacts who add their words of wisdom. Chris Packham, Mark Avery, Dominic Dyer, Anneka Svenska, Kate MacRae and so many more.

It has inspired me to get my trail camera out again. I haven’t set it up in a while apart from just to see if the hedgehogs are visiting the garden. I haven’t seen any signs this year but I live in hope of them returning. My trail camera is just a cheap one from Aldi bought on sale at £15. They usually start from £30 up these days. The better quality ones can capture amazing footage but even a cheap one like this can show you what is in your garden. It gave me and the in-laws great pleasure seeing the badgers in their garden.

I wasn’t expecting to see them this time of year but we did have a few visitors.

Alex is fortunate to have many people around him providing him with great chances to get out in nature. But I get the feeling he knows how lucky he is to have had so much support at such a young age. One lesson I’m taking from the book is to take the opportunities on offer.

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Nature Book Club: Review-The storm whale

I thought for this weeks Nature Book Club I’d have a look at a story Alice recieved for Christmas. The storm whale was the first book by Benji Davies. He has since written several follow ups and many other lovely emotion filled books. Grandad’s island is regularly picked for the home time story at school and Alice has picked the Grotlyn numerous times from the library. His books have seen him win many awards and recognitions over the last decade. At the heart of all his stories are positive messages told with wonderful story telling filled with emotion. The storm whale currently has a theatre production touring which we are looking forward to taking Alice to next month.

Right from the cover you have an inviting story with the boy Noi meeting the whale. You’ve got friendship and care right there from the off. Even though Noi doesn’t have a mouth the illustrations strangely carry an evocative feeling to them with the feelings inferred. The illustrations of the settings are lovely and the details are spot on. The shacks they live in are just like locations I know along the coast and the interiors feel just right.

The blurb on the back tells you exactly what you are getting here and shows off Noi and his dad and where they live. Within the story there are nice little details like Noi and his dad have six cats, so straight away Alice wants to spot them all counting the hidden cats. The story focusses on the lonely boy Noi, with his father working leaving him alone. Noi’s empathy and compassion for the whale reunite him and his father. The story is very touching. The book itself is often available cheap in the supermarkets, but even full price it is well worth the money.

 

TOUR DATES 

If you are interested in seeing the theatre production on tour mentioned here are the dates:

East Riding Theatre Sat 9 – Sunday 10th February

Eden Court Theatre and Cinema Tue 12 – Weds 13th February

The Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham Sat 16 February

Stantonbury Theatre Mon 18 February

Theatre Hullabaloo Thurs 21st Feb – Sat 23rd Feb

York Theatre Royal Tue 26th Feb – Sat 3rd March

ARC Stockton Arts Centre Fri 8 – Sat 9 March

artsdepot Sunday 10th March

Theatr Clwyd 21st – 23rd March

Carriageworks Theatre 2nd – 3rd April

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 24th – 27th April

The Key Theatre 28th April – 30th April

 

Nature book club: Review-Moon

For the last month or so Twitter has had a new hashtag hour #naturebookclub. Currently, this is taking part on Sundays 6-7 pm. It’s a growing community and I’ve seen some great recommendations through it. As a teacher and a parent I’m finding I recommend picture books a lot, so I thought I would look at reviewing some of the children’s books I’ve enjoyed, both at school, and with Alice.

Moon-Britta Teckentrup

Alice goes through phases, much like the moon, of being obsessed with the moon. We have to check out the window in the morning and at night to see it’s still there and how big it is. So, I thought she would probably enjoy this book. The book doesn’t have a running story as such. It goes around the world showing different landscapes describing what happens. On each page, there is a cut out of the moon. As you go through it gets bigger and then wanes. This is the main reason I’ve used it for education, to discuss the phases of the moon. It isn’t detailed in the text but as you go through the book you can talk about wider subjects. Alice was asking whether the animals were nocturnal the other night for example.

The illustrations are gorgeous, despite being toned down as it’s night time they are still entrancing. Much like the illustrations of Eric Carle, they are basic looking but lovely and a lot of work will have gone into their construction. The illustrations and text describe moonlit settings around the world showing a wealth of animals.

As with many of the best children’s books coming out now, it can be enjoyed by both the adult and the child as it has a poetry to it alongside the gorgeous illustrations. As a story about the night, this does tend to be one we read in the evening. I’ve read it with Alice, then she’s often wanted to look through it by herself. That’s always a good sign that it has engaged with her on some level. She will sit talking through the pages. She’s at that lovely pre-reading level of making up her own stories to the pictures but is also starting to know some letter and sounds and is pointing them out.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little review and possibly feel inclined to check out nature book club. I would also recommend ‘tree’ by the same author that shows the life of one tree through the seasons. It’s another stunner.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 3

We started the day at my parents and we’ve enjoyed one last chilled day before returning to normality. We’ve largely spent the day inside as we aren’t quite over our coughs but I have managed to enjoy a few tastes of nature. My mum’s Christmas cactus looking good now it’s flowered.

I’ve popped out a few times to check out the birds in my parents garden. The robin was out and keeping an eye on me while I was out.

I heard a bird I wasn’t familiar with and eventually worked out what it was. My parents have a blackcap visiting. These are common visitors in some parts of the country but are new to there garden, so a pleasure to see.

We returned back to our home where I’ve found homes for some of our new wild decorations.

Hopefully, I’ll now have some time to settle in with my new wild reads. Alice has enjoyed herself enormously being surrounded by family but she is happy to return home to all her presents. Tomorrow we may manage to get out a bit more and maybe enjoy some of my own presents now all of Alice’s are assembled.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 2

We got through Christmas day with a very tired little girl and now enter day 2 of 12 Days Wild. She went to bed very early at half five. This has meant I’ve been up early enough to see the sunrise. Not the most exciting sunrise, a grey blue sky through the clouds.

 

But it did mean we got to hear the dawn chorus. The blackbirds and dunnocks were the first to come into the garden. These were followed by the robin singing away merrily. The chirpy blue tits joined the mix and then the discordant starlings came along.

 

Alice has got some stunningly illustrated nature books for us to enjoy at bedtime.

Hopefully tomorrow we may make it outside a bit more now if the weather isn’t too bad. Time to look at walking off some of the excess.

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30 Days of Wild: Idea 4-Wildlife books

It is sometimes difficult to get outside work and family commitments can take us places less than wild. So today suggestion is to spend a few minutes settling with a wild read. There are many great authors currently getting published under the rather horrible title of nature writing. The market has been flooded with books covering the restorative power of nature. There is a wealth of options covering all forms of life.

I’ve got a few books ready for this month. The first option is a debut from Norwegian professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson. I’m excited for this one. It’s a while since I read anything on insect life so I’m ready for something new. It’s been well reviewed so it hopefully won’t disappoint.

The next is a trip to childhood nostalgia. I have The enchanted places to read by Christopher Milne. After watching the lovely Christopher Robin movie telling a fictionalised version of Christopher Robin I wanted to know more about the real story. This book recounts his memories of the real 100 Acre Woods. I thought it might be a good read for looking at creating memories for Alice.

The last book I have lined up is Still water by John Lewis-Stempel. John Lewis-Stempel’s meadowlands remains one of my favourite books on the natural world. His books feature superb descriptions of what he observes in his day to day encounters. Coming from a farming family and farming himself his books write from a different perspective to many of the books on the market. He manages to write about farming while supporting wildlife showing different options for the future. Still Water has a particular interest to me living near Hornsea Mere, the largest fresh water lake in Yorkshire, and North Cave Wetlands.

Still-Water

Following on from John Lewis-Stempel I’d also recommend checking out the Wainright Prize. John has won a number of times and been nominated in other years. The list always features an interesting mix. They aren’t always all to my taste but they do seem to showcase the best in the field.

So whatever you are doing today make some time for nature even if it is just a few pages of a wild read before bed. I hope you’re all enjoying 30 days wild. What have you got up to? Any wild reading recommendations?

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