Wassand Hall

It’s been a good while since I wrote a blog but this week I finished my last RHS exams. Hopefully, I passed and won’t need to resit. The first exam covered fruit and veg which isn’t my strongest knowledge area but it didn’t feel too bad. The second is on protected environments. They had changed the exam from any of the previous past papers. You usually have a good few questions where you write profiles of particular houseplants. There weren’t any of these questions but a lot more of growing veg in protected structures. A bit disappointed as I know houseplants better but so it goes. Now I’ve got the exams out the way I can get back to actually focussing on my own garden so expect a few updates.

Yesterday I made it out with Alice to Wassand Hall. It’s our closest country house and garden open to the public and we’ve visited it plenty of times before so I’m not going to go into lots of detail about the gardens in this blog. Check the previous blogs for more information. After a few weekends of revision, it was good to get out and to get Alice outside into nature.

Meadows

We began with a walk around the meadow land that surrounds the house. The grassland was filled with butterflies and damselflies. Countless speckled browns and meadow browns and a few more colourful butterflies on the wing. I’ve spotted the deer quite a few times while I’ve been out on my own but no sign today. We did see a good few orchids though.

Alice walked much further than I thought she would, enjoying everything we saw. This area is such a valuable habitat for so much wildlife I’m glad we have it on our doorstep. I’m glad it’s managed as it is creating a variety of niches for different wildlife.

Walled garden

After a snack refuel we headed into the walled gardens. The walled garden is roughly split into four beds with a tropical corner, a more cottage garden feel, a shaded corner and a more mixed one. Alice loves a water feature. Whenever we visit the garden centre she loves spending her time on the water fountain aisle. She spent a good while watching the fish in the central pond.

The tropical corner is probably my favourite area. The large foliage plants mixed with spectacular lilies and dahlias are just so lush to be irresistible.

With the heat, an ice cream break was needed.

Hot house

After cooling off with ice cream we headed into the hot house. Every time we visit I am very envious of the hothouse. They have a fabulous collection of plants growing in there at sizes I could never achieve without the heat and humidity they can create in here. As the last exam was on protected environments it was good to see it all in action.

Alice loved walking through the mist of the humidifier which with the heat outside was quite refreshing. I don’t think Amy will allow me to do this with the summer room though sadly.

Fabulous gloriosa.

Mandevilla growing from a large pot.

The carnivorous pitcher, sarracenia guards the door against insects.

And a few more carnivorous nepenthes protecting the greenhouse from pests.

Back to the outside world Alice was attracted to the rill. As I said she is fascinated by the water features.

Woodland Walk

I thought Alice would have had enough of walking by this point but she was determined to do the woodland walk. It takes you in a circle around the woodland surrounding the walled garden. Along the way you look for animals doors and record the colour on a sheet.

It takes you to the stumpery, which any long term readers will know I like a lot. The mix of ferns and gunnery and wonderful foliage plants makes for a wonderfully calm environment.

I’m glad Alice still enjoys doing activities as basic as these trails. It’s valuable time together and she still found such pleasure in finding each door. At the end, we returned the clipboard to the cafe for a reward of a bag of sweets.

Cactus house

To the side of the cafe is a long thin glass-ceilinged room with the cactus and succulents collection. A stark contrast to the hot house. From warm and humid to super dry. Cactus and succulents are fascinating if strange-looking things. My A-level biology teacher had a love of them and had them dotted around the lab. At least I assume she loved them from the quantity. I also have a suspicion that they were out so the more annoying students would end up touching when they decided to give the furry-looking ones a stroke. She did have a bit of a sadistic sense of humour, though a very good teacher. For adaptations, there are few plants as interesting botanically.

While I’m sure most readers understand the cactus and succulent distinction a few might not. Succulents are defined as plants with water-storing adaptations such as fleshy leaves or fleshy trunks. While cacti are succulents with leaves that have adapted to become spines or scales to suit desert conditions.

While it is only the one stretch of plants there is an amazing variety of plants that have adapted differently for dry conditions. The spines forming micro climates to conserve water and protect the plant from anything that might eat it.

While the succulents have fleshy leaves for water storage in all manners of configurations.

I think this little one was one of my favourites, Mammillaria gracillis. I like how the spines are adapted to flatten over the cactus stems to make a web.

Plant sales

OK, I’ll be honest this was one of the main reasons we came out. I was looking to take Alice out for a nice day but no reason that couldn’t cross over with me seeing some interesting plant stalls. There were a few local nurseries there with a mix of perennials and bedding plants. Long Riston plants are very reasonably priced. The Hardy Plant Society were there with a good selection of perennials. But as we visited the local open gardens a few weeks back I already have a good pile of plants needing planting so I resisted these. I couldn’t resist the Hull branch of the British Cactus and Succulents society stand.

I think they have involvement with the display at Wassand and they had brought out a great selection for the display table.

Alice likes the ones which look like they are covered in wool as mum likes to needle felt and she felt it looked like the wool she uses.

Best of all, all of the pots were £1 each regardless of size and rarity value meaning we could pick many just based on what we liked. We both picked a good few. Then a picked up a not-so-mini tetrapanax. This is capable of becoming a large-leaved tropical-looking tree. In milder areas, they can remain evergreen. I expect mine to be deciduous dying to the ground in winter. Accounts online differ in how it copes with the wind. But I have seen a good few accounts saying it can manage with sea salt winds so I’m going to risk it. If it works out it will make for an impressive specimen within the front garden jungle.

Glad I managed to find my favourite cactus from the cactus house. I can see how people become obsessed with collecting and growing these wonderful plants. Their small nature means anyone can fit a good few. The great variety makes them very interesting. I’m tempted to join the society as they look to have a good number of online lectures each month making it easy for me to fit it around Alice. Then they meet once a month close enough for me to get to. If they ever have a press office job going I’d leap at that for the amount of bad puns that can be made. “They’re a bit of a prickly bunch with dry sense of humours.”

It was a great day out and wonderful seeing Alice taking such enjoyment from the wildlife in the meadow, to the plants in the garden, to the woodland trail, to simple pleasures such as watching the water. Despite dragging her around for over 16,000 steps, during the whole day out the only whine was when I said it was time to go.

Bugtopia Hornsea

Today I’ve had Alice to myself while Amy went to teach revision classes so we headed off on the bus to Freeport. I did the obligatory hour or so at soft play, also known as hell on Earth, bouncing off some of her energy before heading to Bugtopia. Bugtopia was the actual reason I wanted to go to Freeport. It’s been open a while now but I didn’t feel Alice was old enough to enjoy it that much.

Bugtopia is a heated trail room filled with animals, mini beasts and birds. The jungle trail is a heated room filled with a mini stream and jungle stream. It is currently small but I believe there are plans for expansion. Despite the size, it is rammed with life. Butterflies, moths and insects can be found resting on stones and leaves. Terrapins and turtles fill the water pools. Then there are a number of birds flying in the space and a parrot kept within a caged area. Entry is £6 for adults, £5 for children but you can come and go through the day. So you can plan for having a wander through, having lunch or doing some shopping, then go back in. A season pass would be nice for us as we live so close but didn’t see that as an option.

Through the day there are talks to go back to if you want to get your money’s worth.

  • 11am- Incredible Inverts
  • 12pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 1pm- Parrot Show
  • 2pm- Incredible inverts
  • 3pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 4pm- Parrot Show

On entry, the first sighting was a familiar one, an Atlas moth. During a previous 30 days wild a fellow teacher bought Atlas moth cocoons without realising how big these beauties are. They are probably about the size of my hand. They are short-lived as moths existing in this stage to mate.

Another familiar sight to teachers, the Giant African Land snail. My head has tried to palm some of these of on me. While Alice was excited to see these Amy doesn’t want me to have one.

Alice loves a water feature whenever we go to the garden centre and all bridges are exciting places to trip trap across looking for trolls. So she loved walking over the little streams and was delighted to spot the terrapins.

Butterflies and birds fluttered high and low.

One of her favourite discoveries was the snake. I was surprised she liked this so much but she told me it was like the one on the Gruffalo’s child and that made more sense. She returned back to this cabinet a good couple of times to say hello.

A turtle and another Atlas Moth.

We left for lunch and returned to see parrot training. It was interesting to hear about how they are building up the skills and teaching it to fly and work to earn a reward as it was born in captivity. My camera was still adjusting to the high humidity in the room so apologies for the steamed over photos.

Not the most flattering picture of the staff I’m afraid but the parrot is stunning.

Alice had a closer look around.

We went in and out a number of times over the day. She chose a rubbery crocodile as a souvenir which she lost on the way out. After a minute strop, we located it again. Disaster averted. Alice was a bit scared of the butterflies flying close to her head which prompted us to leave but she did talk happily about what she’d seen on the way back so she’d obviously enjoyed it. When we got home she wanted her animal box out and dug out the butterflies telling me the blue one was like one she’d seen.

Overall it was a good first visit. While it is small the fact that you can go in and out and return for workshops means you can get longer than it initially appears on entry. I think as her attention goes up she’d probably stand and watch a number of the animals for quite long periods. It’s filled a day of the holiday nicely and I reckon she’ll be talking about what we saw for a while to come.

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Burton Agnes-Snowdrop walk

We have returned from a few days visiting the in-laws. On the way home, we decided to pay a visit to Burton Agnes. Burton Agnes is an Elizabethan home built between 1598 and 1610. It has stayed within the same family for all of this time. It is located in the East Riding between Bridlington and Driffield. It’s about a 20-minute drive from our house in Hornsea so a fairly easy day out for us. RHS members get in cheaper on Mondays and Fridays. At £7 for entry to the gardens and £11 for the hall and gardens it falls within the average garden price for our area. A years membership would be paid back in 3 visits so I may consider paying next time.

For this visit, we just paid for the gardens as we were after seeing the snowdrop walk. We thought hall and gardens might be too much for Alice without the pram. The woodland walk takes you through a thin strip of trees heading away from the house. Currently, the ground is carpeted in snowdrops. While I’m not much of a galanthophile seeing a mass amount of this little flower is magical.

The woodland walk is estimated to be about 20 minutes. It’s all gentle walking and as it was dry we saw a lot of prams and wheelchairs navigating the path. Along the path, you can find animal sculptures.

Alice enjoyed looking for the animals though I think she was disappointed not to find a Gruffalo having done the New Forest Gruffalo trail.

Hanging from one of the trees is a giant clanking windchime. Luckily they don’t have any neighbours too close as this wasn’t a delicate chiming collection of pipes.

Dotted through the woodland are fairy houses. Alice enjoyed knocking on each door. The hall is in the process of building a new children’s play park. This looks like it will be fitting with the fairy theme. A large tower with a twisting slide looks to be the centrepiece. It looks like it will be great fun when finished.

I think we probably visited the snowdrop walk at peak flowering. The walk is advertised as on until the start of March so must still be some going for a few more weeks.

The gardens are currently a bit bare so we may have to look at a return visit later in the year. I had expected the gardens to match the house with many Elizabethan choices but looking at the labels in the ground I can see it is more varied than knot gardens though there are a fair few roses. I imagine it is stunning in Summer but not really worth much time currently.

To the side of the garden is a maze and at the back is a sensory garden and kiddy corner but Alice didn’t want to wander that way. But we did make it into the giant games area. I think Alice expected an actual giant but she did enjoy playing with some of the games and found other children to follow.

There were a few Spring bulbs poking out around the gardens. My favourite amongst these was the irises. I’ve planted a few within pots in my garden but I think this will increase next year. The vibrant colours make such a welcome sight this time of year.

A fountain for Alice to run round in circles.

Clipped topiary make good places for hide and seek.

The nature garden gave us a spot to eat our picnic lunch and has a walkway to keep the kids entertained. There is a cafe that is reasonably priced as these places go. We had a drink on the way out. Two cups of tea, a child’s drink and a cookie for just over a fiver. The hall also sells a number of plants in the entrance courtyard and they weren’t badly priced. If we didn’t have a car full of suitcases I’d have considered buying some.

We enjoyed our stop off at Burton Agnes and plan to return later in the year. I’d like to see the gardens in bloom in Summer. I’m sure Alice will enjoy the play park when that is complete. In a few weeks, there is an orchid festival. While I don’t currently grow any orchids I’m sure they’ll be stunning to see. I’d recommend a visit to Burton Agnes if you’re in the area. Lots to see for different age groups.

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7 Days of Wild Christmas Day 4

Today saw another early start with Alice up at 6. She wanted to watch the TV version of we’re going on a bear hunt. She hasn’t been that bothered for this story so far. She generally chooses Julia Donaldson stories or Burglar Bill for bedtime. But now she’s starting to enjoy bear hunt we can get out to enjoy some hunting. While not that wild watching TV she sat entranced by the snowman. It’s nice to see this nice gentle viewing still engages.

Second Hand Christmas

Much of Alice’s presents were bought second hand from eBay and Facebook marketplace. One of the main toys Alice likes is her trains. We managed to win several bundles giving her a really amazing train set now. Modern Christmas involves a lot of disposable commercialism. Presents people and particularly children will play with for one day and discard. These toys are good solid wood, metal and a small amount of plastic that should last and be able to be passed onto another child after Alice. She doesn’t know or care that someone else has played with it first. A little less waste at the busiest time of year for landfill.

Tree pruning

I put one of my Christmas presents to use and pruned the Acer today. I’ve spent most of the morning pruning and clearing away in some of the borders. I feel a lot better for the time outside and the garden looks a bit better for it.

The whole time I was working the birds were watching. The second I left they returned to the claim the fresh food put out.

Stickman

I saved a few branches to make Alice one of her favourite book characters. Two sticks, a few grooves cut in and some string and we had a stickman. She’s held onto tightly and has got annoyed with other people touching it. Not bad for an almost free creation.

News

This story in the Guardian caught my eye. It makes for quite interesting reading examining many beliefs about sustainable eating.

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/sep/05/ditch-the-almond-milk-why-everything-you-know-about-sustainable-eating-is-probably-wrong

 

Farm trip

Today we visited an apple event at a local farm. Apple pressing and baked goods were on offer.

We went for a nice walk out from the farm.

A little way along we came to a tributary of the River Hull. I saw a brief flash of blue as a kingfisher disappeared.

We settled down on the bank for lunch.

Owl boxes have been set around to encourage nesting.

Alice had a good attempt at copying a neigh from the horse.

I saw my wildflower for the weekend: poppies and chamomile.

In a gypsy caravan Alice went for the biggest pumpkin on offer.

Summer Falconry School

Today saw a large family outing to see one of my nephews help in a falconry display.  This was the culmination of a Summer attending South Cave falconry for lessons.

A few of the birds.

The last time we visited was just before Alice was born and the vultures were due to arrive. It was good to see these spectacular birds that sadly are becoming more endangered. Vultures carrion habits are important for stripping dead animals which helps stop disease spreading. Yesterday was vulture day and it’s worth spending time admiring these birds.

Alice took my dad round to explore. As well as the birds of prey they have a petting zoo. Alice seemed quite interested in the wallabies.

We saw the birds in flight.

Nephew Jacob helped with the display.

Jacob pictured with the kestrel he has been flying over the Summer.

Alice walking with Amy and Jacob.

South Cave falconry deserve praise for the work they do looking after these amazing birds. Many are rescued from owners who didn’t realise what effort training would be. The Summer school has given Jacob experience’s he isn’t going to forget soon. So if you are in the Hull area please pay them a visit.

Sewerby Hall

So having finished our time at the bay it was time to say goodbye to the oystercatchers and head home. As we left over the moors we couldn’t help bu notice how stunning the heather is looking this year.

To break up the journey we stopped at Sewerby Hall. Sewerby Hall is on the edge of Bridlington. A Georgian house that was added to through the 19th century. The orangery looks particularly fine, but there was a wedding on so didn’t get a proper look.

The zoo

The house has a zoo located in the old stable space. The animals have moderate enclosures. The Capuchin monkey like looked a bit lonely.

I much proffered the wildlife we saw roaming free on the grounds.

In the walled gardens Alice got let out of the howdah for a wander. She was very taken by the pond. Eventually I would like a small water feature in our garden to attract in the frogs.

I was quite taken by the artichokes. They need a decent space though for effect so I don’t think they’ll make it into my garden.

I can make more space for alliums and globe thistles though.

Bay walk

The second day at the bay we got out for a walk along the sea front with Alice’s aunt, uncle, cousin and granddad.

Max had an explore down the tunnel.

Alice had a brief walk on the sand. She didn’t like the water very much so ended up back in the howdah pretty quick.

Alice’s Uncle Rich and cousin Max explored rock pools finding a decent sized crab.

Pecking through the distant rock pools for molluscs we saw the oyster catchers.

And a few butterflies on the way back up the cliff.

Back at the house we had a sit down in the rather beautiful garden for a cuppa. Alice had a good explore.

Photo challenge

The photo challenge I’ve been taking part in had been focussing on flowers and petals this week. So I’ve been playing with aperture.

So here is the same flower at different apertures. This affects the background focus. Generally for flowers people aim to have the flower in focus, then the background in soft focus isolating the main subject of the flower.

1/6 sec. f/36 50 mm

This gives some focus to the background leaves, which here isn’t quite as nice as the soft focus.

1/200 sec. f/5.6 50 mm

1/200 sec. f/6.3 42 mm

The higher f-number giving a nicer shot in my opinion. The subject flower is shot showing the colours nicely with the background as a soft blur.

And a few other shots from the garden.

Alice has enjoyed having her cousin around.

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Bench of happiness

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on several larger garden jobs: building a paved area for the compost heap, knocking out a brick veg planter on the patio, and building a bench area. The planter is knocked out. It didn’t have proper drainage and was up against a wall of the house. It may of caused water damage if left and it’s also give us a bigger space for a table on the patio. The compost heap was dismantled as while the house was rented the renters filled it with rubbish. In its place is a paved area and a compost bin. The bench area hadn’t come on though as we couldn’t find a bench we liked. We wanted a bench down on the lawn so we have somewhere to sit and watch Alice play.

However at the weekend we saw a sign for a yard sale. Not expecting very much we ventured down to have a nosey. We went down the street and found one of the roads had a number of houses having yard sales. Mostly junk they wanted rid of, but one man was selling planters he built and had a bench he’d made for sale. For the bargain price of £35 we got something a little bit more unique.

The area we wanted the bench to go in has been underused. I had some daffodils there in Spring, but apart from that it’s largely been empty meaning weeds have moved in regularly. The area has a slope to it as I think someone at some stage intended a kind of rockery, but never finished it. So I’ve levelled it a bit and then used the stone bricks I had from knocking out the veg planter to build a line at the back to keep the soil slope back. Then tried to level it flush with the lawn at the front.

Alice was keen to help. I laid some sand to help make a better foundation. I think she thought it was some sort of wonderful sandpit for her, but living by the beach we don’t really need a sandpit. She did spread some sand though with the dibber. The dibber is probably her second favourite tool after the watering can mentioned previously.

 

Then weed matting went down and a layer of gravel around the bench legs. Alice is going through a stage of being fascinated by rocks. So she helped get them out the bag. She didn’t cry though that the stones had to stay when we were done.

All in all I’m pretty happy with the end result. I have few practical skills, beyond looking after plants, so this feels like an achievement. The stones at the front are pretty level with the lawn and feel firm.

The bench area looks good from the house with the view through the hydrangeas.

Hopefully we can enjoy sitting watching Alice enjoy the garden and it won’t subside.

The road goes ever onwards

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

J.R.R Tolkein-The hobbit

Sunday saw Alice and myself escaping out the house to escape paint stripper fumes. Amy has been working hard stripping paint off the stair bannister. We’ve tried to avoid Alice being around it. We headed off along one of the footpaths through the new housing estate that brings us out into the countryside. The crops were being harvested today. A great amount of dust and wheat shreds were in the air.

The side of the path has a number of the largest buddleia bushes. The peacocks who were absent a few weeks ago are now swarming all over it.

From here we explored a bridleway I’ve not ventured down yet. It runs alongside one of the caravan parks and is quite well kept in comparison to other around.

A number of speckled woods departed as we came along.

The bridleway took us out back along the coastal edge. The path took us down past a boat club. Along the path are a number of objects diving crews have brought ashore.

We stopped the pram to let a ground beetle cross our path. It seemed to be in more of a rush than us.

The sun was out bright and the sea was looking spectacular.

Flamborough Cliffs looking good today.

We walked as far as the pram would safely go before returning back along the coast path back to town. On the way saw a distant rabbit hopping back into the hedges as it saw us.

Alice had a run around on the grass along the coast edge before heading for the park. She was in a very sociable mood today chasing other families shouting hiya and waving bye as people went past.

Alice discovered a stick. She’s starting to realise why this is one of the most popular toys of all time. She engaged in some mark making on the path, running and waving it around and bashing other sticks. An excellent toy available in a range of sizes and limited colours. She carried it most of the way home before dropping it as we got back to our street.

We fitted in a quick go on the swings before leaving the park. She’s becoming a bit of a thrill seeker enjoying going higher and higher.

As a teacher I get these long periods of time off for the Summer and it’s lovely being able to spend time like this with Alice. She’s really starting to develop rapidly now. Her understanding is improving daily and her desire to communicate and interact. She loves getting out and has started fetching her shoes and going to the door to show her preference. We’re lucky that we have so many wonderful places to explore around us. I hope everyone had as pleasant Sundays as me and Alice.

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