Saturday, 25 October 2014

Goodbye Garden

It's that moment of the year when the garden begins to retreat and now it's becoming all about the view instead.

It could feel a bit melancholic but there's a richness and beauty about late October that I just can't get enough of. I'm lucky that I adore all the seasons and don't mind the slide into winter one bit. The drama of fierce weather and wildlife visitors will soon be here. 
There's s solitary dahlia left flowering in my old dolly tub but instead of flowers now there's foliage setting the garden ablaze. The leaves of the perennial sunflower are shining as brightly as the flowers did throughout September and the ivy that cloaks our fence is one of those variegated varieties that glows on a gloomy day.

A few late bees are making the most of the nectar bar that the traditional green ivy hosts and I've seen a tiny wren flitting in and out making a shelter for winter. Geese are flying into the valley again and I'm really enjoying seeing the songbirds flocking back into the garden.

Everything leans now, lots of plants with elegant seedheads I'll leave standing, however lopsidedly, to catch the frosts and give another show. After Bonfire Night I'll tidy away the spent fireworks and have a look at what is really past its best in the border. Structure, where I have it is, good but soggy, raggy, blackened hankies of leaves, rotting on the stems, look quite sad so they'll come out and feed the compost heap.
The hawthorn hedge is looking ragged now and the rowan tree is already stripped of it's fruit and bare of leaves. Now we can see across the fields to the farm and the russet beech wood that calls to us to explore again before winter steals all colour. 

I've still got tulip bulbs to plant but narcissi, crocus and miniature iris are already snug in their pots. I garden very little in the winter months, our patch is so small there's not all that much to do other than feed the birds. So I'll enjoy this last blaze of colour until it's time to say goodby for now to the garden and thank you for a glorious year x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Keeping Going

This season of my dreams is settling rather nicely around our valley. This morning I got up while the fog still shrouded our village with the idea of getting in a long run (well long for me!), so that I can try and keep my fitness levels up now that it's too dark for me to get out before work. But mostly I wanted to enjoy the landscape.

I work in an office all week, overlooking town centre rooftops with a view of a church, two trees and if I'm really lucky, the occasional sight of a peregrine falcon who roosts on the clock tower. Now this, undoubtedly, is brilliant but I feel cooped up, claustrophobic and hemmed in - I need to see the horizon! 

Running is just brilliant for that. I get to enjoy the scenery in a way I can't by walking on my own; why is it such a wierd thing, as a woman, to go for a walk on your own, without a dog? Or is that just me? 
Heavy fog cloaked everything this morning and I wondered if I'd see a thing. But once I climbed up towards the village on the ridge, the sun broke through in the most beautiful golden shafts.
It was fantastic to be out, listening to the jays and jackdaws call, enjoying that damp scent of the woodland and the misty lanes. It was an eventful run too. A nice couple walking their dogs helped me rescue a young bullock that had strayed onto the road and we shooed him back into a field before there was a crash!

Seven miles, up hill and down the lanes, and an hour or so that will keep me topped up all week xx

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Autumn Hurrah

It's here! At last after the most glorious and languid of summers the air again is crisp, damp, scented by woodsmoke and filled with the calls of the rook and the robin's winter song.

October so far has been for family time, catching up with school about the start of a new year, visiting relations and cooking a Sunday feast to share with family closer at hand.

I'm running for longer at the weekends now that it's too dark in the mornings before work. I take my phone with me every time to catch moments of the season as it begins to move on. (Pics via my Instagram feed - CurlewSteph).

The next few weeks are all about celebrations and new things (we got to review this lovely Italian restaurant in town last night.) My big birthday approaches in just a few weeks so I'm starting to make a few plans and look forward to lots of fun.

I hope that your spring or autumnal October is shaping up nicely too xx

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wild Afternoon - Coombes Valley

About a mile or so from home we're really lucky to have the most fabulous RSPB nature reserve nestled in the gorgeous Coombes Valley, part of the bigger Churnet Valley landscape that we call home. Today was the reserve's annual open day so when the rain had cleared and the mist had lifted, we popped over to have a look at some of the exciting new things we heard had been happening.

It was the most brilliant afternoon of discovery and exploration. A new trail has been laid, opening up access to some of the younger woodland that the RSPB manages, as well as new footpaths to make the site more wheelchair, pushchair and family friendly. It's quite a small reserve with tons of different habitats including meadows and native woodlands that cling to the hillsides.
Today it was great to get involved in all the extra activities so we pond dipped, finding water boatman, pond skaters and mayfly larvae as well as a lovely whirlygig beetle, before heading into the brilliant new yurt where the Staffordshire Bat Group had the tiniest pipestelle bat to show us. There was lots to learn as well from the woodland team at the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership who are working really hard to take care for this special valley.

Then we strolled around the woodland where you can make dens to your heart's content, search for bugs, explore the storytelling circle and see where, very soon, a new aerial walkway will give you the chance to get a bird's eye view of the woodland from the treetops! There's a certain eight year old who just can't wait for that!
I got quite over excited about these marvellous little fairy houses the volunteers have worked so hard to create. They're completely magical and I was totally absorbed in the detail of doorways, window frames, roof tiles and even lanterns and garden swings they'd made. Come nightfall there'll be a wonderful little party going on here!

We could really feel autumn upon us this afternoon, especially with the mist lingering and that dampness in the air that heralds the change of the season. My most favourite moment was when a huge flock of sixty or more goldfinches flew above our heads.

Coombes Valley is a truly special place and free to visit. The RSPB are doing terrific work improving the site and managing the landscape for wildlife and visitors to all get the most out of it. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers we met today who were really friendly and welcoming and helped us find out so much more about our lovely local reserve. We'll be back again really soon,

Where's your favourite wild place to visit?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Restoring Order

It really has felt rather nice to get back into the swing of things over the past week. The boys have been really keen to see their friends some more and for us that back to school feeling has prompted sorting, tidying and planning on a major scale. I quite like it.

The final week of the holidays was wonderful and we spent it walking with friends in the woods, cooking up some autumnal dishes for the freezer and planning for some big occasions on their way over the next few weeks.

All this glorious late summer weather, there is apparently about, is giving the Moorlands a pretty wide berth. Here its muggy and very grey, has been for days, and I'm craving either a last blaze of glory or a good old downpour or two to keep the garden fresh. So we might go off for a look at the sea tomorrow and chase the sun while we've still got the chance.

Have a smashing weekend. xx

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bordering on Perfection

For years I've been meaning to get to Arley Hall to see the legendary long borders in all their glory. When we decided to visit today I did think that maybe we might have missed them past their best. I needn't have worried.
They are truly magnificent; deep, double borders of sumptuous planting that weave tapestries of perennials into a splendid display.

The atmosphere on this grey, late summer's afternoon was languid and precious. Swallows swooped all around us, low to the ground, while giant blue and green dragonflies chased about. 

There's still much more colour to come in the long borders, plenty of asters coming into bloom which I completely love so I might just have to pop back again soon.

Late summer colour can be a real challenge in the garden but at Arley Hall they know keep the colour going right through the year. It's a style of planting I really love, late summer might just be my favourite time for flowers, and there was so much to inspire today. 

Do you love a late summer garden?

And finally a huge thank you for all the lovely comments lately. I hugely appreciate them and Archie was chuffed to bits with all the kind birthday wishes. I'm trying to reply as often as I can via the comments form so if you click "notify" I think that means you get my reply by email. Hope so. Its great catching up on and discovering some beautiful blogs too. xxx

(*iphone pics today as my camera battery died. It was very breezy too so apologies for some blurriness! You can see more pics on my Instagram feed. Click the camera icon above my profile pic.)

p..s I'm finding that viewing my blog on ipad in mobile mode makes the pictures do very strange things! If that's happening to you, try viewing in web version and that seems to fix it?