Garden Progress, Uncategorized

MIA Catch Up 3 – THE Meadow!

It’s been 8 weeks since I seeded the meadow.

It’s making steady progress, in patches. Despite my careful measuring out of the seed and the area itself, some parts are very dense and there are patches that are bare.

I wrote about the preparation in May Madness, Mayhem and Wildflower Meadows.May Madness, Mayhem and Wildflower Meadows.

Stepping stones laid
Stepping stones to the raised bed at the end of the garden

I’ve been giving it a helping hand whilst the weather has been so dry and hot as it gets full sun for most of the day. I watered it every other evening and cut down to every third. I know, natural wildflower meadows have to survive no matter what, but I was late seeding this meadow and I’m encouraging a few flowers to appear before autumn.

It will have to survive as nature intended now though as a hosepipe ban will be enforced in just over a week.

The Jackdaws have had no respect for the fledgling meadow. They learnt how to balance on the bird feeder quite a while ago. Their technique is to take turns in flying at it, bashing their beaks into the openings for as long as they can hold on whilst the others grab the seed that has fallen. The squabbling and scrabbling that ensues means bare, trampled patches under the feeder.

It also means we have a few random sunflowers throughout the meadow! I spent ages on the internet carefully looking up the flowers listed on the wildflower meadow seed packet, to see what these tall, fast growing flowers were (I’ll put the pictures of my research up on my next post). Nothing matched! I was puzzled. Then Roger said, “They look like sunflowers to me”. Of course!!!

Is that a sunflower in my meadow?
Is that a sunflower in my meadow?

Anyway…progress pictures…at 5 weeks after seeding…

Meadow, top right - 5 weeks after seeding
Meadow, top right – 5 weeks after seeding
Close up meadow, under the apple tree - 5 weeks from seed
Close up meadow, under the apple tree – 5 weeks from seed

 

Meadow, left side - 5 weeks from seeding
Meadow, left side – 5 weeks from seeding
Meadow, top left - 5 weeks from seeding
Meadow, top left – 5 weeks from seeding
Meadow, along the path - 5 weeks from seed
Meadow, along the path – 5 weeks from seed

The weekend just gone was the 8 week seeding anniversary…there’s plenty of Ribwort, one buttercup and some poppies about to pop..

First buttercup - 8 weeks after seeding
First buttercup – 8 weeks after seeding
Meadow, left side - 8 weeks after seeding
Meadow, left side – 8 weeks after seeding
Close up meadow - 8 weeks after seeding
Close up meadow – 8 weeks after seeding
Close up meadow by a pathing stone - 8 weeks after seeding
Close up meadow by a pathing stone – 8 weeks after seeding
Meadow, bottom left - 8 weeks after seeding
Meadow, bottom left – 8 weeks after seeding
Garden Progress, Wildlife Insights

MIA Catch Up 1 – Birds and Bugs

It’s been 7 weeks since I last posted here and looking back at my last couple of posts, soooo many things have changed. Nature (and Roger!) works fast.

In that time we’ve been incredibly privileged to have a pair of very busy blue tits successfully raise their babies in our next box.

Blue Tit emerging
Blue Tit emerging, taken with my iPhone through the eye piece of a spotting scope

On my quest to find out about how we could make our new garden wildlife friendly, I joined the RSPB in January. I’d forgotten the gift for joining was a bird box, and was very happily surprised when it arrived in February.

Lovely surprise from the RSPB
Lovely surprise from the RSPB

The beautifully made box sat in the conservatory for a couple of weeks, as we couldn’t decide where the best place was for it. Then I read somewhere that it was time to put up bird boxes as prospective residents would be scouting around for a good home, so it went up in the easiest place to put it, next to the bathroom window.

 

It was then forgotten about as we carried on with our garden and house plans.

Just before the scaffolding went up, Roger mentioned that he thought he’s seen a bird go into the box. I spent ages on the raised patio staring at the box, but I saw nothing. We thought if there were any birds looking at the box they would be scared off by the men that would be working from the scaffolding.

 

Some windows were replaced, all the fascias were replaced, then the roofer started on the chimney and roof repairs. “Did you know you have Blue Tits nesting in your box?”

We saw those busy parents constantly in and out the box from then on, sometimes taking a brief rest on the scaffolding. More men came to take the scaffolding down, the Blue Tits just carried on parenting.

I spent hours just starring in wonder. Roger bought me a spotting scope so I could get a close up view, as the parents got more and more bedraggled and the babies got noisier and noisier.

Watching the Blue Tits
Watching the Blue Tits

It wasn’t long before we saw lots of little faces keep appearing at the hole. They were getting ready to fledge. One morning, looking at the box, I had a feeling today was the day. On my return from work they were gone. No dead baby birds under the box or in the garden. My heart went to them, wishing them all the best for their futures.

***

So, back to the beginning of June…the upper tier of the back garden had a new retaining wall and had been de-turfed and seeded with a wildflower meadow (written about in the previous post). What to do now?

On of our favourites local places to go on our motorbikes is Carsington Water, a beautiful peaceful place. It has a small RSPB shop which we always visit before having a cup of coffee looking over the reservoir. We loved this magnificent bug hotel they had for sale.

Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop
Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop

Luckily it wouldn’t fit on the back of a motorbike, so Roger got thinking and turned a few packing crates into a beautiful one of our own.

As you can see, not all the floors are ready for inhabitation! We need to go on a walk to find pine cones and other interesting bits and pieces before winter.

But, now Roger had an urge to build more houses! I’d been trying to get his son to build me a bird table since we moved in, he’d now lost his chance. When I next came home from work, there was a bird table. Not just any old bird table, a delightfully crafted one.

I’m very happy, the birds are very happy.

***

We have a friend, actually we have two! A pair of robins. They appeared whilst the Blue Tits were mid parenting, so they either didn’t have a nest or lost theirs. They are incredibly inquisitive. We’ve done more work on the garden (or rather, Roger has) which I’ve still to write about, and they’ve been there every step of the way, keeping all of us company as soon as any of us stepped into the garden.

One was very brave and followed Roger into the conservatory! He did panic and needed a gentle coaxing out.

Over Friendly Robin
Over Friendly Robin

That’s the bird and bug news, wild flower meadow news still to come!

Walking Discoveries

Afternoon Canal Walk

As the wind and snow had mostly disappeared, I could finally get out to discover more of the surrounding area. My daughter was home from uni and wanted to practice using her new camera so she came along too.

From our house in Disley we took the path almost opposite which leads to the Peak Forest Canal. Turning right we headed along the canal path towards New Mills. We continued past the Swizzles factory and New Mills Canal Basin until we reached a footpath across the fields down to the River Goyt.

Canal in Disley
Starting our canal walk, heading towards New Mills
Reflections in the Canal
Perfect reflections
Canal in Disley
Following the canal path
Painted Canal Boat
Beautifully painted canal boat
New Mills Canal Basin
New Mills Canal Basin

I didn’t see as much wildlife as I expected. In the trees on the opposite side I caught a glimpse of a squirrel racing through the branches. Most of the ducks and geese were gathered in the canal basin amongst all the moored canal boats. There was a large friendly black duck with beautiful feathers that changed colours as he moved, which I’ve not seen before. Some of the residents of the boats further down the canal had seed feeders and fat balls in the hedges for the birds which attracted plenty of sparrows and I got a brief glimpse of a long tailed tit which I’ve not seen since I was a child.

But, quite a surprise, were the lamas in a field as we approached the river! They were quite happy munching on the grass. Despite plenty of effort to attract their attention they ignored us completely, much to Esme’s frustration, as she wanted a photograph of one with it’s head up.

Railway bridge over River Goyt
Magnificent railway bridge over River Goyt

Following the river brought us to Torr Vale Mill which used to be a cotton mill and is now being developed into office space and an arts centre. Along side the mill is a beautiful double arch viaduct and a weir. Leading from this stunning area is the Millenium Walkway, suspended over the rushing water. We crossed the bridge over the river at the end of the walkway and climbed up into New Mills. We were then able to rejoin the canal at the basin and retrace our steps back home.

I’m still amazed at the beauty and peacefulness just over the road, but not visible, from my house. I can see myself using the canal path to get the New Mills all the time and can’t wait to see it come to life through the Spring and Summer.

Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
New Mills Millennium Walk
New Mills Millennium Walk
Garden Progress

Front Garden Plan

It’s taken two muddy measures in the rain, lots of viewing through various windows and a few false starts getting it down on paper, but at last, I have a front garden plan (back garden plan is still in progress).

Front Garden Plan
Front garden Feb 17

This is how it is February 2017 (although I’ve added leaves to some of the shrubs that don’t have them at the moment!) and there’s probably some plants yet to wake up and show themselves.

I was hoping to get out there this weekend, do a bit of weeding and tidying, and to get up close to the plants I can’t identify. But, this morning was driving sleet and freezing cold. Instead, I’ve had a delightful few hours with some watercolour pencils, keeping warm in the conservatory listening to the rain and letting my imagination run wild.

A bit of research on the internet and I’ve come up with some preliminary planting plans.

On a lunchtime walk this week, I saw so many signs of spring in the front gardens I passed. Lots of snowdrops, primroses, crocuses, leaf buds and catkins. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from winter blues (I do suffer from motorbike adventures withdrawal though!!) but my spirits are still lifted and I can’t help smiling when I see spring is on the way. I made up my mind to get some of these things into my own garden.

So, the small bed at the bottom of the drive is to become a woodland garden; Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Snakeshead Fritillary, Bluebells, Wild Honeysuckle and Wild Cyclamen. And yes, I have placed my order! With Naturescape, a wildflower specialist. Some of the plants will be in the green, so this won’t be their best year in my garden but I’m hoping the woodland garden will improve over the years. I might scatter some forget-me-not seeds in a few months, to help fill in the gaps.

 

I’ve noticed a few small birds flitting in and out of the hedge, which has a few berry remains and birds like berries! This has made me consider making the bed to the right at the bottom of the drive, a bird garden. I can hang some feeders in the tree and put up a bird table and a bird bath. As birds like the seeds from thistles and I’m a thistle lover too, I’m going to try and grow some here. It might not get quite enough sun, but I’ll see how it goes.

 

The main bed in the front garden is tiered and runs from the front of the house alongside the steps to the drive. It already has quite a few established shrubs, some very pretty white and purple heather, as well as lots of Crocosmia (which needs a good cutting down to allow the new shoots through). Next door successfully grow Lavender and Rosemary in their corresponding bed, two of my favourite perennial herbs, so I’m assuming that the front garden is as well drained as the back, despite the water that makes it’s way down from the fields at the back. I’ve already purchased two potted Lavender and one Rosemary. They’re waiting for their new home on the steps in the back garden. I’m gradually going to pick up pots of other herbs such as Mint, Sage, Thyme and Chives to fill any spaces.

 

As I don’t know what the hedge, two trees and most of the plants are, I will be posting close up photos with the hope that you can enlighten me. Any comments on my plans are also very welcome.

Wildlife Insights

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Scrolling through Instagram Friday morning I came across a post mentioning the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – this weekend! I was instantly interested and got online to find out more as the past few days, we’ve really noticed the birds singing and chirruping and getting, well….very noisy! I’ve popped outside to try and spot them but haven’t seen anything. So, an hour in the garden with the sole purpose of birdwatching felt like a very good thing to do.

birdfeederFriday, I hung up a seed and insect suet roll bird feeder (I’d bought recently) at the end of the garden, where there’s a large open field over the fence. Within minutes two cheeky jackdaws were trying to land on it, to no avail as they were too big. I spent the day working from the conservatory where I could see the feeder, but sadly there were no further visitors.

Saturday, I downloaded the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch pack, which included a calendar with some great tips to get my wildlife garden going throughout the year. I also saw the site has some fabulous features with lots of inspiration. I decided it was certainly worth joining the organisation and signed up.

 

binocularsSunday, 9am, armed with a cup of coffee and a beautiful old pair of binoculars (given to me by my dad many years ago) I made my way up to the seating area, next to the apple tree. I could hear plenty of birds singing away but still couldn’t see any.

Over the next very peaceful and pleasurable hour, I saw many birds flying overhead although I couldn’t make out what they were. Through the binoculars I saw 2 blackbirds and a collared dove in a big tree over in the field.

There were plenty of jackdaws flying in and out of the same tree as well as settling on the surrounding rooftops. I used to have lots of magpies in the garden at my previous house, it seems jackdaws will be my new boisterous friends!

When I turned round, still looking through the binoculars, I saw a thrush and a goldfinch in a tree several gardens down. That made me smile.

I’m hoping as I work on my garden with all my plans to attract more wildlife, that I’ll see many more birds whilst taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch in 2019.

thrush in tree
The tree a few gardens along
view from my chair
The big tree in the field