Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Save Our Forests

I've never added anything like this to my blog before but I do feel that the proposed sale of our national forests, particularly the ancient woodlands, is very wrong indeed. The thought of these beautiful places getting into the hands of people who are just interested in making a profit from them makes my blood run cold. If the Government no longer wants to maintain them then they should be signed over to organizations like The Woodland Trust or the local Wildlife Trusts. There is a mounting feeling against this proposal and the stronger and more numerous the opposition is the more likely it is that we will be able to stop it. There is an online petition which is available here and I do urge all English readers of my blog to consider signing it.

Save Our Trees Petition

Selling off the forests may well produce a large sum of money for the Government but the idea is both short-term (you can only sell them once) and short-sighted.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gardening in January

I don't think I can ever remember being able to work in my garden in January before but the last week has been almost springlike in my part of the country and I haven't been able to resist the temptation. Of course when I say working in my garden I really mean that I've started clearing the debris from last year. Normally I would be able to garden well into December but the snow and freezing temperatures put paid to that last year. There are plenty of signs of life around already the most noticeable being the lovely yellow stars of the winter jasmine.

There are all kinds of gardens, people have rose gardens, herb gardens, Japanese gardens and so on. In my case I have a particularly fine example of a dead stick garden.

In many areas the dead sticks are greatly enhanced by the artistically arranged heaps of dead leaves!

The piece de resistance - a magnificent white plastic football takes pride of place in this border:)

Removing dead leaves revealed crocus' pushing through even though the earth was still frozen earlier in the week. The new green leaves of the cowslips are appearing too.

I decided to begin by giving the woodland area at the bottom of the garden a much needed sorting out, it hasn't been touched for two or three years and was badly in need of attention. There were what appeared to be three or four little groups of snowdrops poking their noses above all the dead leaves by the beech hedge. As I raked and cleared it turned out to be a positive swathe of them which will be lovely in a few weeks. You can see how deep the leaves were as many of the snowdrops spears are yellow from the lack of light, hopefully they will turn green now. There are some daffodils in here as well and it's also where my comfrey grows though there are few signs of it at the moment.

The snowberries are especially ambitious if left to their own devices for too long and the long whippy branches bend over and root in the surrounding soil. I have raked and pruned and filled bag after bag with offerings to go to the local rubbish dump. I have filled my own capacious leaf container to the brim and the local council composts all the green waste so I don't feel too guilty about. Yet another jewel lay under all the mess, a plant I'd forgotten was there - the beautiful bud of the winter flowering cyclamen coum. I shall pay a visit to a local nursery and buy some more of these to add a little glowing colour to the winter days. I've so enjoyed being outside and hopefully shall get a few more hours in before the forecast 'light snow' appears on Thursday. It will give me a head start on spring which will be especially useful this year as I'll be in South Africa in early March.

Special thanks go to my little companion and helper who has been cheering me on enthusiastically as I revealed more and more nice soft earth full of fat, juicy worms:)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Winter Walk

B Baggins and I went down Shorts Lane and onto Blackamoor this morning, there were grey skies and a cold wind blowing. I saw the farmer ploughing this field in the autumn and now it has a new crop growing - barley I suspect if it's the same as last year.

I don't think the farmer will be very pleased to see these little heaps of soil! Moldy Warp the Mole has been busy by the looks of it. Does anyone else love the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley - Moldy Warp is one of the characters from these delightful stories. I have only ever seen one mole and that was a dead one kindly deposited on the back porch by my wonderful old cat Raffles - now long gone across the Rainbow Bridge. It was totally undamaged and must have died of shock I think. It was a lovely little creature with the most beautiful fur. I was very sad about it's death and after I'd told him off Raffles was very sad too! I apologize for the poor quality of the photograph, I tried several times and this is the best of a very bad lot.

These old moss covered dry stone walls give me pleasure every time I walk past them. It's sad that so many of them are poorly maintained these days. Dry stone walling as a country craft is definitely reviving but it's very expensive to employ someone to repair walls. In the old days the farm labourers would have had the skill to do such jobs in the winter months. My dad had this skill along with several others including being able to use a sickle. Judging by the rabbits that came home in his capacious pockets I suspect he had some skill as a poacher too!

B Baggins investigating the various scents in the grass verge, apart from other dogs there are horses,foxes,rabbits and badgers around here. There's a large badger sett close by and in the early summer I'm going to go at dusk without B Baggins and see if I can watch them for a while.

Even in the depths of winter, when everything looks lifeless at first glance, there are signs of life if you look for them, these are fresh young nettle leaves emerging in a sheltered spot protected by a high bank from the icy winds that come whistling down off the moors.

After the snow melt and a couple of nights of heavy rain Blacka Dyke is looking pretty lively, it sounded as though it was having fun as it raced merrily along.

This stone plaque has appeared very recently and will weather nicely into its surroundings I think. Although we have Alderman Graves to thank for giving Blackamoor to the people of Sheffield he hadn't actually owned it for very long. It was bought from the Duke of Rutland in 1927 when the Longshaw Estate was sold.

Thick stems of ivy twisting round the branch of this tree. This doesn't, contrary to common belief, strangle the tree. Ivy has its own root system and simply uses trees for support in the same way that a climbing rose does. I speak with the authority of the Royal Horticultural Society behind me:) Ivy has great value for wildlife. As ground cover in woodland it greatly lessens the effect of frost, enabling birds and woodland creatures to forage in leaf litter during bitter spells. Growing on trees, it provides hiding, roosting, hibernating and nesting places for various animals, birds and insects (including butterflies), especially during the winter months and in areas where there are few other evergreens.

Even in this wintry landscape there is some colour, the reddish brown of the dead bracken fronds adds some warmth to the scene and the green of the moss cheers things up too.

This is where I often cross over Blacka Dyke via the stepping stones and climb up to Lenny Hill, from there you can take several routes depending on how far you want to walk. Today though I stayed on this side of the river and walked further up into the woodland area. No photos though as this is also where my camera instructed me to 'Change Batteries' and I hadn't brought any spares!

Monday, January 10, 2011


This is a not very good photograph of one of two hazel trees that grow at the bottom of my garden. As I walked down to the compost bin a few days ago in the snow I gazed hopefully at the one near the bin as I have done in the early part of every one of the last few years. When I say 'hopefully' I suppose I really mean 'longingly' because I didn't really expect to see what I was looking for and it was more of a casual glance as I passed by.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw these at the end of a twig, I searched and there were a few more to be seen as well!

I dashed across to the other hazel and sure enough there were a few catkins on that one too. 'She's getting rather over excited about a few hazel catkins' I can hear you all saying and it's true that there are many country hedgerows to be seen with hazel trees covered in catkins at the moment. These are rather special ones though because.....

......I grew both of these trees from little cobnuts sent to me by a friend in Hampshire. I planted them about 10 years ago and they grew and flourished but this is the very first time they have ever had any catkins on them and as the spring comes they will lengthen and fluff up and I shall have some little lamb's tails blowing in the wind. I am thrilled to little pieces:)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A New Year

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.
I block the roads, and drift the fields with snow;
I chase the wild-fowl from the frozen fen;
My frosts congeal the rivers in their flow,
My fires light up the hearths and hearts of men.

from The Poet's Calendar by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Janus is the god of gates and doorways, beginnings, endings and time and it is for him that the month of January is named.  I like the idea of looking both forwards and backwards. In the past lie the experiences both good and bad that have enriched and shaped our lives. We learn from all of them. In the past also lie our memories of friends and family many of them now dead and gone - how empty our lives would be without the ability to recall all the happy times shared with those who have been most important to us. As for looking forwards - a whole new year lies ahead full of possibilities and opportunities. I intend to make the most of it and I hope you all do too.

A very Happy, Healthy and Adventurous 2011 to you all from B Baggins and I!