Rough around the hedges

It was beginning to resemble Sleeping Beauty’s not-so-enchanted forest of tangly thicket out there, in the ‘garden’.

hedgerow_1

all very well for jam and keeping out invaders

There are some fabulous stretches of hedgerow surrounding the land, providing habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna, but one component, namely the blackberry bush (Rubus fruticosa) is spreading like wildfire and threatening the other shrubs and trees.

In amongst these brambles are woody plants such as :-

  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  • Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
  • Hazel (Coryllus avellana)
  • Oak (Quercus)
  • Quince (Cydonia oblonga)

Not to mention ex-elm trees, and climbing shrubs such as dog rose (Rosa canina), and traveller’s-joy (Clematis vitalba).

small copper butterfly on travellers joy flower

small copper butterfly on travellers joy flower

I’m all for letting nature take its course, but the rate of encroachment was becoming significant and it was time to intervene. Time for something more effective than a pair of sharp secateurs and stout leather gardening gloves – bring on the tractor mounted flail cutter.

Monsieur Debroussaillage has spent a good 4 hours noisily reclaiming the margins of the land, and clearing in between the old oak trees.

Before : line of contiguous vegetation

Before : line of contiguous vegetation

After : oaks and other trees stand alone

After : oaks and other trees stand alone

LMBF_tractor_1

Let the Battle of the Ronces commence

Additionally, the so-called uncultivated pasture (aka Lower Miller Beck Fell),  was being invaded by acaia trees, which take hold at a phenomal pace. Another half days work for Monsieur D., and the field looks so inviting that we have started to talk about keeping sheep or goats again.

choked and overgrown

Before : choked and overgrown

LMBF_after

After : neat and tidy

maybe one day?

maybe one day?

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Bentley Pinfold Open Day

Following the recent post charting the story of the restoration of Bentley Pinfold, the latest news is that the pinfold has now been officially opened, with a proper ribbon cutting…

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The day was attended by local folk, with their memories and stories. For example, Mavis remembering when the pinfold was used for its intended purpose (enclosing stray animals).

The wildflowers are flourishing, as is the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

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the wildflowers thriving in the favourable Doncaster climate

And now that the pinfold is officially open for business, the bees have started to arrive.

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An observation hive was brought along by Alan Woodward of the Doncaster Beekepers Association – which generated keen interest.

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Alan Woodward of Doncaster Beekeepers Association, demonstrating the fascinating world of bees

Thanks to Adam Howard, seen in the image below, from Growing a Greater Bentley, for the images and news.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

South Bank Show

Just opposite the kitchen window is a southerly facing bank, which is covered in a thick carpet of wildflowers and weeds, with a hint of grass. At midday, it is a mass of colour, very picturesque, and is attracting a multitude of wildlife – especially bees.

Honey Bee visiting Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Honey Bee visiting Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

With all the buzzing, it doesn’t take a detective to track down some of the visitors. Especially when they are relatively large and sporting black and yellow furry stripes (with a cute white bottom)…

Bumblebee on Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Bumblebee on Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

There are one or two honey bees in the mix, gleaning every little they can. Most of their sisters are over at the box tree, which is currently pollen central (more of that in another post).

Honey bee on Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica).

Honey bee on Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica).

my new friend, the Carpenter Bee

my new friend, the Carpenter Bee

and finally, something new to me, even though it is apparently one of the most common bumblebee species, here is the Common Carder Bee. It is medium-sized, has a long tongue and nests on the surface of the ground…

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

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