Saturday, 31 May 2014


This morning's walk took us a around Shipley Park to Osborne's Pond and returning via Shipley Hill.  Close to Osborne's Pond, the open grassland was ablaze with Buttercups.
Even after all the dull weather we've had, they still look fantastic.
A closer look at them, reveals their shiny, bright yellow petals and rich green foliage.  One of the most common flowers in Britain, they surely demand closer attention than we usually give them.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Daisy, Daisy

Today, I have two different types of Daisy to sow off.  The common Daisy (Bellis perennis) is well known to all of us, from patches popping up on the lawn, to making daisy chains as a kid, they are probably the most easily recognisable of all British wild flowers.
The 'flower' consists of a disc of small yellow flowers, surrounded by a ring of ray florets which may or may not be tipped with red.  Growing around the lake at Straw's Bridge this morning, these were all white and no less attractive for that.  The name 'Daisy' is thought to have derived from a corruption of 'Day's Eye', relating to the flower's tendency to open during daylight hours and close during the night.
The second Daisy today, is a lot larger, but growing in the same area as the Common Daisy above.  The Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is a member of the same family as the Common Daisy - the Asteraceae - and it's flower head is built to almost the same blueprint with a disc of yellow flowers surrounded by ray florets.
Growing to about 3ft tall, these are easier to photograph without the need to scuff about on the ground.
The unopened buds of Ox-eye Daisies can be marinated and used in the same way as capers.

Thursday, 29 May 2014


The dreary weather has been a bit disappointing over the last few days and has kept us more or less 'grounded' from our walks around the countryside. But there have been one or two brighter moments closer to home.  I mentioned the delightful little moth which visited our garden a couple of days ago, well, that hasn't been the only colourful visitor we've had.  Yesterday saw a pair of Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) foraging about looking for nesting material.
Despite the low light and drizzle, I managed to get a few shots through the window which turned out to be not too bad.
Goldfinches have rather bucked the trend of other British birds over the last few decades and their numbers have increased to around 313,000 breeding pairs in the UK.  Feeding on seeds from Alder, Birch, Thistle, Dandelion and Teasel, their thin bills are brilliantly adapted to cope with the tiny seeds.  They nest in trees, often perilously close to the ends of branches, lining the nest with moss, lichens and fluffy plant material.  It was this fluff from the Willow trees around these parts, which the birds were collecting from our garden yesterday and, despite the continued bad weather, they were back again this morning.
Stunningly beautiful little birds, no one could accuse them of being LBJ's!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Back home and we have been welcomed back with plenty of bad weather.  Cooler than usual and wetter than we would have liked, things have not been good for walking since our return.  However, we haven't had to stray too far from home to get some good wildlife views, starting with the spectacular red Hawthorn tree outside our house.
Covered in double, red flowers the hawthorn seems to be more spectacular than usual.
In the Back garden, I spotted a species yesterday, which turned out to be another new 'tick' for my life list. Clinging to a conifer, this yellow insect is a Brimstone Moth.
We are familiar with Brimstone Butterflies which appear very early in the year to herald Spring, but a Brimstone Moth was something new to me.
The Hawthorn I mentioned above, is host to many birds - particularly as we have a fat-ball feeder there. Right now, we have lots of newly-fledged birds including Starlings and these, extremely cute baby House Sparrows.
Easily identified as youngsters by their still-visible yellow gape, they are still accepting food from their parents, despite being well capable of feeding themselves.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


Newquay has an area of formal gardens with a boating lake and associated cafe.  Called Trenance Gardens, they are managed by the Cornwall Council and are rather attractively planted with all manner of trees and shrubs.
A small rill runs through the gardens and feeds in to the boating lake.  Beside this rill, our eye was caught by the wonderful Arum Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica).
Out of the gardens and across the busy road, you get to the River Gannel and some lovely walks through the salt marshes and creeks which border it.  There were some pretty good views to be had looking along the river, here, looking inland..
And from the same spot, looking the other way towards the sea...
Nice and quite here, away from the town centre, on a sunny day, there can be few things nicer than this.

Monday, 26 May 2014


I have already mentioned the dazzling display of Sea Thrift and Sea Campion on the cliff tops around Newquay, but the floral show didn't stop there.  Many of the footpaths around the area are lined with the bright flowers of Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber), a native of the Mediterranean countries, it has become naturalised in Britain and many other countries around the world.
With similarly-coloured flowers, the Common Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea) has much larger blooms with darker centres.  These rather more woody plants were in full bloom, clinging to many of the cliff tops.
The leaves of the Common Tree Mallow are supposed to help cure sprains and other injuries if steeped in hot water.  There is a thought that Lighthouse Keepers may have helped to spread these plants around Britain's coasts for just such a purpose.  If it's true, we can only thank them.
Along the salt marshes of the Gannel River estuary, a white-flowered member of the cabbage family was in full flower.  The Common Scurvygrass (Cochlearia officinalis) is so called because it was used to cure scurvy on ships where vitamin C was in short supply.  It was also a new 'tick' for my life list!
Another new 'tick' came from a beautiful, pink flower which was to be found growing in the hedge banks. Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum) is of course, a member of the onion family and another native to the Mediterranean region, but it has been introduced to many other countries where the weather is favourable and it seems conditions suit it very well in Newquay.
Not bad for three nights away, two new ticks for the life list, bringing my list of positively identified plant species to 639 in total.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


Despite the dreadful forecast, the weather in Newquay turned out to be much better than we could have hoped.
Blue skies were reflected in the blue sea.
Where the waves crashed on the rocks, the blue was washed paler...
The sandy shore had much the same effect.
When the skies darkened towards the horizon, the sea took on more of a greenish hue, but still looked beautiful against the darker clouds.
So much for the forecast!

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Among the most common and the most beautiful wild flowers to be seen around Newquay, has to be the Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima). A compact perennial, it has thin, needle-like leaves which form neat mounds on the cliff tops.
Thrift is an iconic plant of dry, sandy, rocky and seemingly inhospitable places, especially around the British coast where it can be found clinging to the most unlikely rocks and covering itself with a blanket of pink flowers.
The name 'Thrift' is supposed to come from the plant's ability to hold on to water collected among its dense mat of leaves. Growing alongside the thrift, were the pale yellow flowers of Kidney Vetch and when seen together, against a backdrop of blue sea, they made a splendid show.
Between 1937 and 1952, the British Three penny coin, had a design of Thrift flowers on its 'tails' side - no doubt playing on the thrifty nature of its name.
The local wildlife seemed equally impressed with the pink cushions of the Thrift.  Here, a wind-swept Fulmar, clinging to the edge of a cliff, was taking advantage of the seasonal decor of its surroundings.
Despite the lashing this part of the UK had during the winter storms, these hardy plants have come to no harm, toughing it out and continuing to brighten the cliff tops with their fabulous display of pink. Definitely one of the highlights of our few days in Newquay.

Friday, 23 May 2014


We got back home yesterday afternoon, following a few days in Newquay, Cornwall.  The forecast before we went was not at all promising and we were expecting to get soaked more than once.  But, in the end, the weather was far better than we had been expecting.  Things did look a little threatening on Monday as we sallied forth for an afternoon walk.  Looking out over the harbour, the skies were rather leaden.
Things stayed dry for us and we were impressed by the Valerian plants growing on walls and path edges. Scrambling among these, the delicate flowers of the White Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria capreolata) made a wonderful show - even in the dull weather.
Fortunately, the grey skies didn't stay too long, and we were blessed with some bright sunshine for most of our walks. Following the severe storms which battered the South-west of the UK in the Winter, we were expecting to see a bit  of damage around the area and there was certainly plenty of scaffolding cloaking some of the buildings.  In places, there was evidence of the coastline having taken the full force of the sea too. A few footpaths had been washed away completely.
In the sunshine however, the cliff-top wild flowers were making a beautiful show.  Thrift, Sea Campion and Alexanders all added to the scene. The sea was beautifully blue too.
 More tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sunny Scene

A shorter walk this morning, as there are always so many people about at weekends - particularly when it's warm and sunny.  We managed to stay off the main paths, keeping to the 'off piste' trails and here, the Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) are beginning to open their pinkish flowers.
Close by, the blue flowers of Bugle (Ajuga reptans) add another colour to the path sides.  It is often called the Carpenter's Herb because it was used to stem bleeding (presumably from a slipped chisel or saw.)
A more general view next, across the top of the bank which once carried a railway line to one of Ilkeston's stations.  In the sunshine, the Dandelion clocks and bright yellow buttercups looked perfect with a blue-sky backdrop.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Across the Park

With the sun shining and the temperature soaring, we set out with the flask this morning, for a longer walk around Shipley Park, Shipley Hill, Mapperley Reservoir and the farmland beyond. Firstly, the view from Shipley Hill, looking south through the trees.
Onward, past the visitors' centre and the wild flower meadows were looking good.  Dandelion clocks aplenty, caught the sunlight and shone like diaphanous globes among the grasses.
The footpaths were lined by the feathery foliage and sprays of white flowers of the Cow Parsley.  Once again, in the sunshine, these add a bright highlight to the hedgerows.  The skies were buzzing with what seemed like thousands of flying insects - much to Malcolm's chagrin!
The other white flowers to catch the eye were those of the Hawthorn trees.  They also added their powerful scent to the breeze and proved to be popular with even more insects.
Back along the Cow Parsley-lined paths towards Mapperley Reservoir for a rest in the shade and to break out the flask for a coffee before heading home again.  All in all, a beautiful day and a lovely walk.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


It is difficult to imagine, but those large, bright, even gaudily flowered shrubs, the Rhododendrons and Azaleas, belong to the Heath, or Heather family or Ericaceae.  At this time of year, the Azaleas growing around Shipley Hill are looking pretty good.  These are in the grounds of the Derby Lodge.
Elsewhere, in the grounds of what was once Shipley Hall, more Azaleas are opening their brightly coloured and surprisingly fragrant blooms.  These are, I think, Rhododendron luteum or the Yellow Azalea (no surprises there.)
Among the most vibrant are the orange-flowered ones.  They seem to glow in the sunshine, particularly when seen against the dark interior of the bushes.  This one is Rhododendron calendulaceum.
The Rhododendrons too are looking beautiful in the sun.  Rhododendrons tend to be larger in stature, towering above you as you walk along the paths of Shipley Hill.
Looking a little more closely, you get to see the intricate pattern of spots and splashes on the petals, down the 'throat' of the flower.
All very colourful.