Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 12 October 2015

Postcard From Jersey

An evening view over St Ouen's Bay Jersey
An evening walk overlooking St Ouen's Bay, Jersey. 
We've just come back from a last-minute and much needed break in Jersey, our first trip to the island. We stayed right on the north western tip, just a few minutes walk through heathland to find this glorious view. Jersey is a mere 9 by 5 miles, so you're never that far from the sea. We just about had a view of it from our bedroom window, and to my joy I realised the lighthouse winking at us was in France.

We took the ferry over which always feels like we're travelling abroad, and this was heightened by all the French road names and other references on the island. Many islanders - including the owners of our cottage - speak a local patois based on Norman French. William the Conqueror owned the Channel Islands as part of the Duchy of Normandy, hence the strong link with France.

We weren't in the UK either, but a Crown dependency, so it was interesting to see how the island's government works and how this makes daily life familiar, yet subtly different to ours. One example is the island's maximum speed limit, of a mere 40 miles an hour. It fits the narrower, winding lanes and the multitude of blind T junctions we encountered.

Highlights of our week included many cliff top walks and bay side strolls, plus the sighting of red squirrels and a dartford warbler. The heathland by our cottage is a Site of Special Interest which also hosts a ruined 14th century castle and lots of German WWII fortifications.

Evidence of WWII is everywhere, so a trip to the Jersey War Tunnels * was a must for our only wet day. It proved a thought provoking experience and an insight into how life would have changed for us if plans to invade the UK had come to fruition.

However, we learned later some people see a positive side to this darker part of the island's history. Our guide at the Durrell Wildlife Park told us her 95 year-old mother recounts how the occupation helped build a much stronger community amongst the islanders and regrets its gradual loss over the last 70 years. More food for thought for me to ponder upon.

Talking of food, our visit coincided with the annual Tennerfest - a marvellous excuse to eat out a lot. There's plenty here to delight foodies and ordinary diners such as NAH and I alike, especially if you like freshly grown local produce or seafood. There's also a host of beach cafes to explore, all offering sea views to die for, plus unpretentious yet great food which doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

I also have a couple of garden-related items to tell you about, which I've saved for later posts.

* = the link to the actual Jersey War Tunnels page has sound and I've not found a way to turn it off, which is annoying. Therefore, I've linked to the Wikipedia entry in the main part of the post and given you the option to go to the attraction's page down here if you'd prefer.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Raspberry Breeding at East Malling Research

Infographic showing the history and development of raspberry breeding at East Malling Research
NB the company's condition for freebie usage of their infographic application requires the display of their logo 
As you can see I've had some more fun playing around with infographics.
Lesson learned - images saved as png files are sharper than jpegs.

My thanks to everyone at East Malling Research, Lubera's Markus Kobelt and Fran Suermondt for making this day happen.

A visit to East Malling has been on my wishlist since I was a student. In my mind's eye I could see my 17 year-old self waving at me from my trip to the National Vegetable Research Station (now part of Warwick University) at Wellesbourne. Happy days.

Update: This is blog post number 2,000. It's  fitting it's one which highlights a great day where I crossed something off my wishlist, has lots of information, and where I've been fiddling around to bring something different to the blog.

Many thanks for reading and all your comments over the years. I wouldn't have got this far without you. Now, how shall we celebrate?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Our Wild and Woolly Lawn

Photo of our back lawn which looks rather wild and woolly
Skimble playing 'spot the pigeon' on our back lawn recently  
If you were an ecologist and placed a number of quadrats in a random fashion on our lawn, you'd consistently find much more than plain old grass. You see, I've been rather relaxed about having a perfect lawn the past few years, and I think we have something far more interesting as a result.

Until the ash tree's demise last year, we had a back lawn which went from deep shade to a positively Mediterranean climate in just a few yards. Now it's merely light shade where all was dark previously, and all kinds of plants are trying to get in amongst the moss. It's an area which really wants to revert back to being a field again, plus it regularly weathers a veritable snowstorm of dandelions and other passing seeds.

Realistically it's never going to win Britain's Best Lawn.

I've decided life's too short and the hard work needed to try and win BBL is best left to one of our neighbours, who seems to enjoy the hours he spends outdoors primping and perfecting his sward.

I tentatively raised the subject with NAH the other day as he's the regular wielder of The Beast. I wisely couched it in terms which would appeal: less time spent mowing. He's agreed as long as the lawn doesn't have foxgloves growing in it again.

I haven't admitted to the Eryngium I've found in there yet, nor the patches of  Alchemilla, Leucothoe, Stachys, Hesperis matronalis and Centaurea montana I can see - all are escapees from the central terrace and shady beds. There aren't any foxgloves, so all's well with the world.

The increase in wildlife in our garden's noticeable this year and I think much of that's down to our now wild and woolly lawn. As well as the aforementioned garden plants, there are some quite large patches of clover and Ajuga in flower which many bees and other insects love. I often see up to a dozen blackbirds and thrushes digging their beaks into the lawn, so they must like it too.

How's your lawn looking this year?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Things in Unusual Places #17: Peahen

Photo of a pea hen in the temporary ladies loos at Whitehall Garden Centre
Caption competition time. Your starter for ten - "Does my bum look big in this?" 

I was giggling at my local garden centre recently when I found the pictured peahen seemingly admiring herself in the mirror.

In Corsham, peafowl are a regular sight striding down the High Street, where they've walked over from nearby Corsham Court. Sometimes they venture further afield, up to a couple of miles away.

On one memorable occasion when we first moved to Corsham, a peacock took up residence and installed himself for several weeks over a velux window where we were staying. It made for rather a dim but pretty time in the kitchen as the window was the sole source of natural light.

Inspired by the residents of Corsham Court (and its environs), Whitehall Garden Centre - which is only a few miles away - decided to have its own resident population of the birds. I'd heard their eerie sounding calls on a previous visit, but never expected to find one in the ladies loos.
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