Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Re-alignment


'The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings.'

I'm a great believer in the time being right to do certain things. Of moments in life that require special notice and adherence to. They are signposts, if we can but see them for what they are.

For many weeks, months really, I have struggled with screens. Computers, tablets, mobile phones. My eyes just don't like them. And neither does my brain. I'm uncomfortable with the electro-magnetic energy they project and how that interferes with our own energies and I don't like the way life disappears into them either.

So, I have made a decision to cut right back on all screens. I shall be telephoning people for a proper conversation instead of texting; I shall be writing letters once more as I always used to instead of emailing. I wish blogging were possible without  computers but it isn't, so this decision means closing the blog down. Perhaps not forever, I don't know yet, but for the time being at least. 

I know I will miss you all, and I want to say a true and heart-felt thank you to everyone who has read, commented on, or thought about the things I've put on here during the last couple of years. I hope it's been of interest and that you feel you've advanced your knowledge on things wild, which was a large part of the reason I began the blog in the first place: to share and spread knowledge that helps ensure the continued survival of our wild things and gives them the recognition they all deserve.

I have enjoyed every minute of blogging; the friends I've made, the humour we've shared, the things I have learnt from all of you. But it is time to do things differently now. I want to write differently too, putting pen to paper and conjuring something lasting. Hopefully I'll be back in a year or so with news of a book to share with you, if that happens expect a post to pop up.

I'm not entirely eschewing internet-based communication, so if you'd like to stay in touch leave your email address in the comments page. I won't print it.

So really all that's left is to thank you most sincerely for your company along the way, and to send you all good wishes and blessings.

CT x

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Planting For Pollinators

Over the last three years we have been working to create a wildlife-friendly garden. Changing the plants we grow has changed the way the garden works. We get a huge range of wildlife living in the garden as well as passing through it- I know this because I keep a note of everything I see and the change in three years is remarkable.

A few of you have asked recently about plants for pollinators, so I thought a post on the subject might be useful.

Many more people are aware of the need to provide nectar for insects now than ten years ago, which is great, but I suspect folks still overlook the need to provide breeding and over-wintering habitat and larval foodplants. They are as important as the adult nectar source, because you won't get adults unless the babies survive :o)

As an illustration, and because everyone loves a butterfly (hopefully) here are some of the UKs commonest butterflies along with a list of the larval food plant (FP) that their caterpillars need and good nectar sources (NS) for the adults. You'll notice that the food sources are much more precise than the nectar ones.There is a full list of nectar sources at the end.

Comma.
FP: nettles, hops, elm, currants, willow
NS: wide variety

Peacock.
FP: common nettle
NS: buddleia, hemp acrimony, teasle and others.

Small Tortoiseshell.
FP: Common nettle, small nettle, hop
NS: wide variety

Painted Lady.
FP: thistles
NS: wide variety

Red Admiral.
FP: common nettle
NS: wide variety
Large, Small & Essex Skippers
FP: areas of mixed grasses left long over winter, especially Cock's foot and Yorkshire fog.
NS: field scabious, red clover, bramble, red Campion, thistles

Small Copper:
FP: common and sheep's sorrel
NS: wide variety

Dark Green Fritillary
FP: violets
NS: knapweed, red clover, purple and mauve flowers

Common Blue
FP: bird's foot trefoil, white clover, black medick
NS: wide variety

Holly Blue
FP: Holly (1st brood early spring), ivy (2nd brood late summer)
NS: bramble, forget-me-nots, holly

Orange Tip
FP: lady's smock (also called cuckoo flower), garlic mustard, jack in the hedge, bittercress
NS: bugle, cruisers, honesty

Speckled Wood
FP: grasses
NS: aphid honeydew on oak, ash and birch

Gatekeeper
FP: grasses
NS: bramble, fleabane, ragworts

Meadow Brown
FP: grasses
NS: thistles and wide variety of meadow flowers

Ringlets
FP: grasses

NS: Bramble and others

Good Nectar Sources For Pollinators (the list isn't exhaustive so please do add to it in the comments section)

Buddleia
Scabrous
Knapweed

Red Valerian
Hemp Agrimony
Daphne
Orange-Ball Buddleia (bees adore it) B. globosa
Honesty
Hebe
Globe Thistle
Bugle
Fleabane
Caryopteris (autumn nectar)
Betony
Ox eye daisy
Michaelmas daisy (late nectar source)
Marjoram (one of the best all round nectar sources for a great many insects)
Thyme
Basil
Rosemary

Hyssop
Borage (beloved of bees)
Fuchsia (hawkmoths)
Star Jasmine (hawkmoths)
Willowherbs (FP for Elephant hawkmoth)
Chives
Nepeta (top nectar source)
Salvia
Astrantia (masterwort)
Honeysuckle
Verbena bonsariensis (top nectar source for flutters)
runner bean flowers
Everlasting sweet pea (brimstone butterflies esp)
stonecrop (autumn nectar)
Liberia
Red clover

Primrose
Spirea
Daisy
Dandelion
Viper's bugloss

lithodora (early nectar)
Crocus (early nectar)
pulmonaria (early nectar)
pulsatilla (early nectar)
Dog rose
Viola
mignonette

alyssum
Arabism
bacopa

aubretia
Chicory
Green alkanet (early nectar)

Ivy (v important late nectar over winter)
Winter jasmine (as above)
Snow berry
Tagetes (be careful of the variety- disco is a good one)
Night scented stock (moths)
Nicotiana (moths)
Poached egg plant
Snap dragons (bees)
Echinacea
Campanular
Tansy
Tickseed
A long list but hopefully enough there for everyone to find something they can grow :o)

Hope that was useful? This year I am also planting my hanging baskets as pollinator-friendly too.

Happy gardening!

CT :o)


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

What Europe Means For Our Wildlife












British wildlife relies on Europe for its protection. There has been no new or updated home-grown wildlife legislation since 2000, and that act didn't add much to what was already in place from twenty years earlier.
The 1981 wildlife and countryside act covers listed species of plants, birds and animals and their habitats, making it an offence to take, disturb, sell or harm them and the 2000 countryside and rights of way act adds on a few extras. The 1981 act is generally acknowledged to be the more significant of the two, yet it is thirty years old, and in those intervening years we have lost more wildlife than at any other time in the last 8000. It's also rare for there to be prosecutions under the act and without that kind of enforcement how can it hope to be effective in what it sets out to do? You might say it is out of date and requires amendment or better still fresh legislation. But that is so clearly not on the agenda that our wildlife has had to rely instead on European legislation to protect it.

The 2010 habitat regulations amalgamated the birds and habitat directives of the 1990s and now forms the basis of all European member states wildlife policy. Its not perfect by any means but it is certainly better than anything our own governments have offered since 1981 (which amounts to more or less nothing). Yet, only last year, George Osborne added his voice to those who were calling for a watering down of the habitat regulations on the grounds they were anti economic growth and development. Fortunately, Europeans returned a resounding NO to that call when asked for their feelings by public consultation.

I won't insult your intelligence by going into great detail of the many, many ways wildlife supports our own lives, but think soil, water and air provision, nutrient and waste recycling, flood management, pollination, food, weather, temperature regulation, medicine, and that's without the considerable health and relaxation benefits a walk in the woods or by a river brings, and the simple undiluted joy of watching the birds and bees and butterflies visit flowers you've planted in your garden, or seeing dragonflies and damselflies visit a pond you've created that newts and frogs also call home. There is also nothing to touch the feeling you get when a rare or endangered species begins to visit your garden because of the things you've put there to help it. I know this to be true because we now have Silver Washed fritillary butterflies here and very rare Longhorn beetles and they weren't in the garden until we created the habitat for them.
That kind of food for the soul can't have a price tag put on it. There is also, of course, the moral and ethical responsibilities we have to what my wise friend Mel calls our Wild Cousins.

Although I personally think it wrong to talk about nature in terms of what it gives us economically, if that is the language that politicians understand then even they must acknowledge the benefits inherent in protecting our wildlife. BUT, the truth as demonstrated by successive governments since 1981 is that Whitehall does not consider wildlife to be significant enough to deserve updating old legislation to ensure its survival, let alone creating new. If we want that, it will only come from Europe, as it has been doing for the last twenty years and if we end up leaving Europe I really, really fear for the future of our wild friends and places.

CT.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Pleasure Inherent In An Old Book













Surely reading is one of life's greatest pleasures? 

I am steadily working my way through a pile of books. They have been gathering dust and they are Quite Cross as a result. To the extent that I've heard dim mutterings about people who buy books and never read them whenever I walk past the shelf they've all been sitting on these past two or three years. Badgerlands, The Sparrowhawk's Lament, Meadowlands, H Is For Hawk, Inglorious, The Cuckoo, The Green Road Into The Trees, Where Do Camels Come From, as well as Robert Ryan's excellent Dr Watson series. I've distributed them around the house now so there is one to hand whenever I feel like reading and the grumbling has settled to the extent I now fancy I can hear a purr of pleasure in its place.

While reading is a delicious thing to do, offering escape, learning, excitement and many other things, and while all these books are excellent reads, the pleasure derived from looking for, and finding, and brining home, old books is something else. 

It started with M giving me the Dean of Rochester's book of roses for valentines. It was a rediscovery of an old pleasure, because when I was a teenager I spent hours and hours in a wonderful old bookshop in the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells revelling in the ancient tomes that covered acre upon acre of the shelves in the old building. I wonder if it's still there.

As a result, I have old, old copies of works by Disraeli, Shelley, Shakespeare, Wilkie Collins, Chaucer, Keats, Wordsworth and others. I like to look at them, take them down from the shelf and open them and consider the other hands who have likewise held them down through the years and what the readers felt when they settled down to read them.

Yesterday, I added to them. A new old book, the first one in twenty years. It's an 1889 edition of Richard Jefferies The Open Air, a treatise on nature. I have dipped in and it is wonderful. The chap who sold it to me had lovingly wrapped it in bubble wrap and brown paper and thus it arrived, neat and tidy and protected, like a sacred trust passed on. I shall treasure it and take the responsibility seriously.

I am going a tad Jane Austen this week- as well as appreciating old books and spending time in the day reading (with Amy's gorgeous hand-crocheted scarf around my shoulders for extra warmth and comfort), I've been painting. Efforts offered for your perusal above. I'm not a very tidy or painstaking painter: I prefer to sweep colours about. I also like pen and ink drawings and have been doing a few of Dorset's ancient manor houses taken from a book written by a friend of the family. I've also been knitting (a blanket for cold knees when on the sofa)  I fear am in danger of soon finding a piano with which to break into song by candlelight after supper and (more worryingly) swooning when my husband comes home from work.

The keen eyed among you will have noticed the Swarovski's. Uber expensive and tiny weeny bins they may be (they fit in the palm of your hand and are as light as a feather), but my goodness they are sharp. I've adopted a slightly devil-may-care attitude this week and the new bins are the result :o)

Have you done anything devil-may-care recently?

CT :o)

Monday, 7 March 2016

And The Wind Whispers Peace


 

 


 








It is easy in modern life to get over-whelmed. Before you know it, and without much appearing to have happened in the way of conscious thought or decision making, you find yourself juggling many things, spinning far too many plates not to drop one.

I tend not to notice the subtle signs that rest is needed. I am a Power On Through type of girl, impatient with mortal frailties. A Coper. The end result is that, sometimes, I can topple over into exhaustion. 
This is OK (ish) when you have no other responsibilities than yourself and a week or two off can be spent sleeping/ watching TV/ going for walks/ reading/ getting up late, and at the end of it back up you pop, all restored, refreshed, recharged and raring to go. 

It is less straightforward when you're a busy wife and mother and have other people depending on you. Then, that kind of rest necessitates other people shifting the smooth flow of their lives around to accommodate you, which, however kindly they do this, doesn't seem very fair on them.

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks I have revisited the lesson that has been raised more than once in the past twelve months, a lesson I thought I was adhering to but apparently not enough, that rest is an important element of capacity and that limits are there to be honoured and respected. I had little choice in the matter as it turned out, which perhaps was just as well. I've got it now, the lesson. I am reorganising life. I have stopped my degree and I am returning to previously well-trodden paths that enable activity minus the stretched-out thin exhaustion brought on by juggling too many things at once. I find that I am starting to see things clearly again, breathing calmly in and out now that the mist is clearing. 

I was directed a while ago to a book about England's ancient roads, and when I started reading it I wondered why I found myself writing down a quote from it on the inside of the front cover: 

"There is nothing like a walk for making you accept an obvious solution, no matter how challenging it might be."

The words rolled about my head and echoed and I kept returning to stare at the quote, trying to figure why it, more than anything else, kept connecting. Eventually I worked out what it was telling me and what I needed to do.

So, a reorganisation. Time to breath and think and quietly formulate gentle plans and simple directions. Already I feel better; already I can see the path ahead; an uncomplicated path, a simple, rustic, wooden and unfussy path that was there all along, running quietly through woods and trees, fields and rivers, with the wind whispering peace beside it. 

How about you? 

CT :o)