Bentley Pinfold Wildflower Garden : a good news story

A very good friend of mine, Adam, has just sent me an article, concerning a Restoration Project in a South Yorkshire village.

Its a heart-warming story, with social, environmental and historical threads,  and tells of the preservation of an ancient structure, the creation of a wildflower garden, all achieved by the community working together.

The tale unfolds in Bentley, a small village near Doncaster and tells of a dilapidated, unloved Pinfold. A Pinfold? Its a saxon term for a walled, lockable enclosure, used to impound stray livestock.

Bentley Pinfold what lies beyond the gate?

Bentley Pinfold
what lies beyond the gate?

By the 16th century most English villages and townships would have had such a pound. The animals owners could only reclaim their wayward beasts after paying a fee, to the Pinder or tallyman.

Bentley Pinfold is Grade II listed, dates from 1832 and over recent years has been used as a dumping ground, becoming overgrown with ugly weeds.

pinfold_2

pinfold in a state of decay

In 2011, various community groups came together to discuss ways of improving the area. Enthusiastic local volunteers from “Growing a Greater Bentley” offered to spearhead the development of a wildflower garden, for the enjoyment of locals and wildlife alike.

Work began to clear the area in 2012, with the Community Payback team clearing 10 tonnes of undergrowth and rubbish.

pinfold_4

clean and tidy

Cash funding was secured from the local “Community First” scheme, and donations of plants, bark chippings and other materials were made by the Borough Council and by local people.

In Spring 2013, the development of the garden began. Wildflower seeds were sourced from Green Estate, and volunteers came to prepare the earth.

The walls of the pinfold were professionally restored and a path laid of the bark chippings.

pinfold_5

Children came from a local primary school to help sow the seeds, and nurture the seedlings.

pinfold_8

And now, in July 2013, the first flowers are appearing…

pinfold_6

an amazing transformation
bees and butterflies welcome

In my humble opinion, a Huge Success!

For the full story, written by Adam (a director of GGB), with proper accreditations, 4 pages in all, click here.

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Butterfly Photography Made Easy

Butterflies are excellent subjects for a photograph, with their gorgeous colours and markings, and often taken in conjunction with some pretty flower or foliage. They do however tend to flit about, rarely staying in one place for more than a second or two (the same can be said for the bees), flying off just as the shot is composed and in focus.

Say Cheese!Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) in stealth mode

Say Cheese!
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) in stealth mode

This perfect specimen below however was much easier to work with, on account of the fact that it is sadly dead. I found it lying on the path, in a remarkable state of preservation – and thought I should honour its memory by taking an image.

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Lights, Camera, No Action
Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Despite the name ‘scarce’, this swallowtail butterfly is quite common (although not in the UK). It’s habitat is blackthorn or sloe bushes, which abound in the hedgerows surrounding the house. I would really have preferred to try to capture an image whilst it was still alive, and am now on the lookout for other members of the family – but it did make an excellent, well-behaved model.

Below are a couple of beauties, who managed to stay still long enough to get a shot…

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) on clover

Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) on clover

Saying Happy Father’s Day with a bunch of wild orchids

Bee Orchid with fathers day greeting

One of the primary motivations for embarking on this blog was as a Father’s Day gift last year, as a tool for communicating how things were going with the new bees, given that Dad was a major venture capitalist in the hive & honey project (a generous birthday gift). And given that he is interested in many aspects of nature, especially all things botanical – being a fabulous plantsman blessed with truly green fingers.

On safari in the garden, a few days ago, I came across this beauty, the Bee Orchid, which ties the two themes of bees and botany rather neatly together. It was a moment of pure serendipity, discovering such a beautiful flower, just metres from the house. I counted nine such stems in all.

Bee orchid (Ophyrys apifera)

Bee orchid (Ophyrys apifera)

As if that wasn’t enough, a few minutes further into the safari, my eye was drawn to this rather tangled bloom…

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

It’s a lizard orchid and the petals unfurl from the bottom of the stem to the top, and the largest specimen, over by the hen house,  is over a metre tall (a record 115 centimeters to be exact – I’ve just had to update Wikipedia!)

Wild Lizard Orchid, with furled petals

I was now on a roll, and soon spotted a third wild orchid -a pyramid orchid. There is a veritable patch of them, and they have superceded the grape hyacinth – at first glance I took them to be close cousins.

Pyramid Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Pyramid Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

And finally, this single Tongue Orchid, discovered a few weeks ago is still going strong, despite the threat from the lawn mower.

Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)

Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad – I can’t claim to have spent many an hour nurturing these beauties in a greenhouse or on a window sill, but I do hope that you like this bunch of wildflowers, free in many senses of the word.

Born Free

Born Free

Airbus A350 – the latest first flight in Toulouse

Airbus A350 - first flight

Airbus A350 – first flight

There was a big buzz of excitement all around the perimeter of Toulouse Blagnac airport this morning, as crowds gathered to witness the maiden test flight of a brand new aircraft – the A350.

Weather conditions were perfect, big blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds, and barely a breath of wind. We found a good vantage point on a small hillock, surrounded by wildflowers, right at the end of the runway. My camera lens was distracted downwards, as there was quite alot of bee activity in amongst the poppies…

bb_poppy_1

But, stop it, we were here to witness the aeronautical abilities of an altogether different extra-wide bodied phenomenon.

The tension was palpable – many folk in the crowd were directly involved in some way with the design and creation of the new airliner. Just before 10 o’clock, a small corvette aeroplane took off in advance of the A350 – full of video equipment, with experts to observe the exterior of the A350 during its test flight.

And then, right on time, no fuss, the A350 started off down the runway and was soon airborne.

Airbus A350 takes to the skies

Airbus A350 takes to the skies

The plane is expected to fly for four hours, over France and the Atlantic, before returning early this afternoon – and then ready itself for the airshow in Paris next week.

bon voyage

bon voyage

Wildflowers : Of verges and vergers

Californian poppy ~ Eschscholzia californica

Californian poppy ~ Eschscholzia californica

One of the positive aspects of all the recent rain is the proliferation of wildflowers, now coating the banks at the side of the road, nestling in amongst the hedgerows and cornfields, and blanketing areas of uncultivated land. They are also appearing in and around the garden, vegetable plot and orchard (perhaps I should note that the french for ‘orchard’ is ‘verger’ – hence the title of the post).

The poppies win my Wildflower of the Week award,  photogenically colouring the roadside with their cheerful, deep red tones.

poppies swaying in the breeze

poppies swaying in the breeze

Last year, we decided to have a go at planting our own wildflower meadow, and cleared an area around an ancient pear tree. We chose a mix of flowers that would attract insects deemed beneficial to the vegetable garden, together, of course, with bee-friendly wildflower seeds. Nettles and other unappealing weeds were removed, the earth laid bare and the seeds duly scattered. And we waited. And nothing. And then the nettles and other horrid weeds came back.

But then this year, as if by magic, a colourful carpet of mixed wildflowers has sprouted up. They are a bit localised and bunched together – but quite magnificent. The marigolds are particularly vigorous – these came from seeds left over from companion planting for the tomatoes (they repel nematodes and slugs).

Pear Tree Meadow

Pear Tree Meadow

In a different style, but nonetheless wild, I was thrilled to find this orchid, sitting majestically alone in the middle of a patch of grass (too unkempt to call ‘lawn’), lucky to have escaped the blades of the tractor. It belongs to the Tongue Orchid family.

Tongue Orchid ~ Serapias lingua

Tongue Orchid ~ Serapias lingua

Credit to Amelia (https://afrenchgarden.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/of-the-well-trodden-paths/) for alerting me to these wild orchids – didn’t think I would spot one so soon after reading about them, let alone in my very own garden.

Flitting about in the garden are quite a few of these butterflies – the Heath Fritillary. In the UK, they are considered to be threatened, but not so in France – where their preferred habitat is given as pasture or unimproved hay-meadow (an apt description of the lower part of our ‘garden’).

Heath Fritillary ~ Melitaea athalia

Heath Fritillary ~ Melitaea athalia

a rather tatty Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) feasting on chive flower

a rather tatty Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) feasting on chive flower

And finally, here’s a shot of something not terribly wild, my faithful hound, posing in amongst the poppies.

Blog the Dog

Blog the Dog

Raindrops on rose buds

It’s gonna bee a bright, bright, bright sunshiney day!

raindrops_tulip

At dawn, there was a sharp heavy downpour, which cleared quickly, followed by a bright blue sky, fresh, not a breath of wind. Out on the early morning dog walk, I noticed that the raindrops had stayed fat and heavy on the flowers and foliage – plus the sun was now glinting off and through them. Dog walk cut short, I dashed back for the camera, this time not anticipating much in the way of bee shots, but potential for trying something new with the sparkling rain drops.

reflective raindrops

reflective raindrops

I am liking the general idea of some of these shots – especially this one below of the raindrop with my house upside down, but am thinking some of them should be marked ‘Could Do Better’. I hope you still think that they are worth posting!

raindrop_bioue

iris_raindrops

raindrops_grass_2

raindrops on rose bud

raindrops on rose bud