Dorset Holiday part 1

We have returned from a lovely week down in Dorset. One of Amy’s friends from her time working in Indonesia had offered us the use of her house while she was on holiday. This has worked out ideal as we then didn’t need to take bed guards and hundreds of toys for Alice as they were already there. That said, the car was still pretty full. Tiny peugeots are possibly not the best family holiday cars. This was the longest car journey we’ve taken Alice on at six hours. But she coped very well. We timed it well for her having a good nap on the way down and two stop offs. Only one section with a screaming child in the back. Alice enjoyed her service station stop offs. Everything is an adventure at her age.

The first proper day down we got ourselves in order with a trip to Aldi for food. We realised the weather forecast was rain for almost the whole week, so we stopped in sports direct and invested in waterproof trousers. This have been invaluable, keeping us dry, meaning we haven’t needed to worry sitting on wet benches or being splashed every time Alice launched herself  into a pudding.

Then a visit to Hengistbury Head where Amy’s friend was staying. Hengistbury Head is headland jutting out of the coast between Bournemouth and Mudeford. It has a variety of habitats including beach, heathland, grassland and shrub making it an area of scientific interest, a special area of conservation interest, a special protection area and an environmentally sensitive area. On a good day I imagine this is an amazingly bio diverse area with wonders to be seen. However the two days we visited were cold, windy and wet, so much of the wildlife was hidden away.

To get to the head you can go round on a land train or take a short ferry from Mudeford Quays. We opted for the ferry. Alice thought it was very exciting going on the ferry. It was her first time on a boat. There was lots of excited pointing at other boats and smiling at the other people on the ferry.

Along the headland are lovely little beach huts, some for renting.

We had a little amble along the headland with our host and her twins.

Alice loved jumping in every puddle on the way and searching for rocks.

While the wildlife was put off by the wind there was still plenty to interest me with shrubs and wildflowers for me to look up in my birthday present, the wildflower key.

We had a lovely time along the headland. I would love to return on a sunnier day. I expect we would have seen a lot of butterfly life more species of bird. Part two to follow, in which we see wild horses.

Six on a Saturday-24.3.18

Well it seems that Spring has arrived. On my journey to work the rabbits are back out along the wooded edges and the daffodils are coming out in greater numbers. Today is my birthday and the first day of the school holidays, so a day for relaxing. I’m continuing with the six on a Saturday garden blogs concept from the Propagator.

My first, as already mentioned, is my daffodils. I planted a number last year as Amy likes them. While I’m not massively found of them they do add a good splash of colour for Spring and I do like them as another herald of Spring arriving.

The next I think is a camellia. I’m not certain if it is a camellia or an azalea. It came with the garden and I’ve never tried looking it up to work it out. Either way I know it needs ericaceous compost. I gave it a surface layer in Autumn and gave it a liquid feed a few weeks back. This seems to have done it a world of good. A lot more flowers than last year. It’s suffered a bit with the frost, but for a few weeks I’ll get to enjoy the white blooms.

My windowsill propagator sensed Spring was here too. As shown last week my hollyhock seedlings and sweet peas are coming along well. However the morning glory seed were showing no sign of life. Then Monday one poke out, then a few more as the week went on and now were looking to have plenty on the go.

This will be my first year attempting morning glory. They came within another pack of climbers. In the UK it is grown as an annual as it is too tender for our climate. It is a climber with trumpet shaped flowers. The blue flowered varieties are the ones I’ve seen most often, but this pack has reds and oranges on. We’ll have to wait and see if I manage to keep them going to find out what colour they go.

Earlier in the week gold leaf gardening gloves were slightly reduced in the Amazon Spring sale. I’ve read about Gold Leaf gloves before. They are the only RHS approved gloves, recommended because of their durability combined with suppleness. I generally don’t wear gloves. I like the feel of soil and dislike the hindrance of not being able to feel what I’m doing properly. But I have a few plants which irritate to the touch and having planted new roses I want to try to take better care of them than the previous owners had. So, while they were on offer I thought I’d treat myself. While pricier than my previous sets I’ve ended up replacing the last few after short periods. We’ll see whether quality work out better. Having arrived they do feel as good as the reviews said. I’m sure in future I’ll give them a proper review when they’ve seen some wear and tear. The leather feels lovely in comparison to my previous rubber gauntlets I’d equipped myself with for roses.

In the last week I’ve finished the RHS botany for gardeners. This is on kindle sale this month for 99p. It was well worth the 99p. As it’s mainly text it was fine reading on kindle. Many gardening books don’t suit the kindle format, but this was good. It covered a wide range of subjects from Latin and taxonomy to cell structure and propagation.  It was an interesting read that I think I could reread in a year or two. It’s given me abetter understanding of why gardeners do jobs particular ways.

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And my final contribution of my six, my hebe cuttings. I’d started the cuttings just in water and they rooted. I had no idea whether they would. I had an inkling that they would and thought I’d experiment to see if I could cultivate another bush or two from cuttings. They seem to be doing well in the pots, but I think they might need moving to a bigger pot now. We’re going away in a weeks time, so I’d like to do it before then, so I can ensure they have a decent watering before we go.

As mentioned at the start of the blog it is feeling more Spring like and the rabbits are out and about. I’m aiming to manage a decent photo of a wild rabbit this year. I’m getting closer, but  still nothing amazing yet. Here is one from yesterday I’ll leave you with. Hope you’ve enjoyed my six. In a few weeks I think I’ll have a lot more in flower to comment on. Hope you’ve enjoyed my six.

Meadow in my garden-prize

Last month I won a twitter competition from meadow in my garden. Meadow in my garden are a family company with a passion for wild garden. Their main product range is a variety of different seed mixes to help provide wild flowers to benefit many of your garden visitors. From the pollinators through to the birds. They offer seeds for all situations, dry soil, rockery, tree foot, shade, shorter mixes. I rather fancy the planter and shorter mixes to use for a few pots in my front garden and the planters at school.

In addition to the seeds meadow in my garden also provide nest boxes, bird tables and some lovely looking garden sculptures. Through twitter I was fortunate to win a conservation nest box.

With the weather it has taken a few weeks to get it put up. The nest box has the option of being converted to an open nestbox or widening the hole for larger birds such as great tits and sparrows. The open nest box will suit robins and wagtails. I have an open nest box already and as I haven’t seen much of the robin recently I’ve left it with the smaller hole and closed front.

I’ve previously written about hanging nest boxes. It’s been placed in a sheltered position, with cover nearby and spots for newly hatched birds to get out onto. But there is still a clear flight path to the entrance. At the moment this patch of fence is quite bare, but I have a climbing rose freshly planted that will gradually rise up to give more cover on this patch of fence.

The conservation nest box matches nicely with one of the butterfly houses I already had up on this stretch of fence. It’s a good quality nest box, feels like a nice solid build. Advice on placing nest boxes advices to place them away from food sources. As I provide a lot of feeders this may mean the amount of activity in my garden may put off nesting, but I live in hope. The bluetits have been in and out of the garden lots enjoying the Haith’s suet pack I put out a few week back ready for the cold weather. The coconut feeder has been very popular having been scraped clean.

Thank you again to meadow in my garden for a wonderful prize give away.

Follow me on twitter.

 

 

Hawk Walk

Today saw me out with my dad and nephews at South Cave Falconry. We previously visited to see one of my nephews fly a hawk at the end of the Summer. For Christmas we booked a hawk walk for my dad with space for one other to share the experience. The hawk walk takes you from the centre through the woods with one the centres handlers.

As you go the hawk leaves your arm to explore the branches and returns to your arm for food. My dad had his turn on the way out.

The hawk explores the trees, stumps and the ground. On the way out we were heading uphill, so the hawk mainly stuck to short flights between branches and back.

Then on the return walk I took my turn with the glove and the hawk did slightly longer glides as we headed back down hill.

We had a Harris’s Hawk for our experience. These are beautiful birds found through South Western United States to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. They are sometimes found in Britain, where they have in all likelihood escaped from falconry centres. They live in woodland habitats as well as semi-desert. So the woods around the centre are not a million miles away from their natural habitat. They exist on a diet of small birds, mammals and lizards. Within the woods today the hawk found the remnants of a few unidentified mammals distracting him from the walk. Harris’s hawk is unusual in that it will hunt in packs, where as most raptors are fairly solitary. They will hunt in family groups giving them the chance to catch larger prey than they otherwise could on their own.  They are popular amongst falconry centres for the comparative ease to train in comparison to something like owls, which take much longer if they can be trained at all. Harry Potter has a lot to answer for with people thinking owls will make god pets.

Truly a magnificent bird. A wonderful shared experience I would recommend treating someone to.

New Year at the Bay

For New Years Eve we had a quiet night in as Alice isn’t quite ready for parties. New Years Day we headed up the coast to Amy’s dad’s house at Robin Hood’s Bay where we had a lovely meal at the Hare and Hounds in Hawker. Amy had the trio of pork and I had the home made burger with goats cheese. I just expected a few pieces crumbled on the top, but it was a solid slice of grilled goats cheese. It was all delicious. Alice had a good wait, so had walked back and forth across the pub multiple times before food. But she did quite well for her age. She has decided to reject booster seats now. She wants either a chair to herself or my knees to sit on. She knows her own mind for a one and a half year old.

The next day saw a good sunrise over the bay with breathtaking skies. I think I said it last time I went, but photos don’t do it justice.

The next day we got out for a walk. I was taking photos as we went for the New Year Plant Hunt organised by the BSBI. The aim being to monitor what wildflowers are in bloom in Winter.

A few seen on the way.

Red Valerian

The winter heliotrope. A rather delightful low laying wildflower.

Plenty of gorse along cliff faces.

We had a nice walk along the beach. We didn’t quite make it to Boggle Hole, just down the coast. Boggle is a local name for a hobgoblin, a mischievous little person. Boggle Hole was one of the spots the smugglers on this stretch of coast used, thus the name.

Alice was keen to get in the howdah today trying to clamber in before we were ready.

Continue reading New Year at the Bay

Folklore Thursday- squirrels

It’s been a while since I did a folklore Thursday post. Yesterday, while out for a walk with Alice and Amy, we saw several squirrels and managed a few photos. So they seem a good focus for this weeks folklore. Published a day late as I didn’t finish it for Thursday.

Following on from The Dark is rising reading group the British folklore seem most appropriate. The squirrel is connected to Queen Mab; the fairy queen. First written reference to to her was by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Mab is presented as something of a hag bringing blistered lips to young women and sometimes interpreted as herpes.

Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,

Queen Mab may have come from the Irish Queen Medb. Medb is often represented with a squirrel or magical birds on her shoulders. A fairly promiscuous goddess featuring within the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Her main part in the story is setting the cattle raid of Cooley in motion. It has been suggested that her name possibly originates from mead, meaning intoxication and linking us nicely back to TDIR. Medb is also connected to the Morrigan, who opposes Medb warning the bull to felle before the cattle raid of Cooley. Again linking us back to Alan Garner’s writing, which has featured much within discussions of TDIR reading group.

Squirrels are often used for a symbol for mischief and anyone who has watched them on their bird feeders can see why. While it was a grey squirrel I photographed and it is an invasive menace to the red squirrel I can’t bring myself to dislike one of the few wild mammals I get to see on a regular basis.

The dark is rising-day 4 the magic of names

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” J.K. Rowling

Today’s set question on the dark is rising: Speaking aloud (en-chanting) is vital in TDIR, as is the knowing of names. What are the powers of language in this book (from which so many people read aloud?

Within TDIR people can gain power by knowing someone’s true name. Maggie Barnes is prevented from harming Will early on through the use of her true name. The concept of names having magic is an old one in folklore. Rumpelstiltskin being one of the best known. An old tradition states that un-named children could be stolen by fairies and replaced by changeling’s. In the hobbit Bilbo avoids giving Smaug his name. More recently in the Studio Ghibli movie spirited away the character Chihiro loses her name to the witch Yubaba.

The ability to name things correctly remains important for the modern world. Conservation efforts need accurate identification of species to support them appropriately. Unfortunately the loss of knowledge like wildflower names, bird names and insects endangers these efforts.

Within my own practises mantras play a part. A sacred syllable instilled with power by uttering it out loud.  Within other faiths prayer plays a significant role as does communal recitals of readings, songs and prayers. Words undeniably have power. Within TDIR Maggie is stopped through the use of her name. The light characters avoid their names being known. The lady also avoids her true name being used when first meeting Will.

I have just reached the chapter, the book of gramayre. Robert MacFarlane having posted this as the word of the day; Gramayre being the old French for knowledge. The book being a grimoire. So it looks that words will playing a role over the next chapter.

Today ended with a bright red sunset. Knowing the old rhyme this can only bring ill for Will tomorrow.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful powerful drug used by mankind”

Rudyard Kipling