Sunday, 30 August 2015

Coming to an end

With one more day left of Summer (meteorologically speaking), those few of us who prefer the shorter, colder days of autumn and winter, can start to come out of aestivation (the opposite of hibernation). In our garden too, the signs of autumn are everywhere, nowhere more so than our nasturtiums which have been decimated by the caterpillars of Large White butterflies (Pieris brassicae).
These rather attractive larvae have given me something of a dilemma. Our nasturtiums have been very colourful throughout the summer and their flowers have attracted all sorts of bees, hoverflies and butterflies. The Large White butterfly is also an attractive insect and one which I do not want to harm in any way, but it is nonetheless a little upsetting to see your pots and baskets being eaten away before your very eyes.
Oh well, never mind. It is getting to the end of summer now as I said and the nasturtiums wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, so it's probably for the best that these little leaf-munchers have their fill while they can.
Soon, they will pupate - so I will have to keep an eye out for where their chrysalis' are - and spend the winter in that state before emerging as adults next year, to start the whole process over again. Maybe we'll grow something else next year!

Thursday, 27 August 2015


The end of Summer and the onset of Autumn has revealed  some wonderful, late-flowering plants around the countryside. Nowhere is this more obvious than around the watersides. Hemp Agrimony and Angelica are in full flower to the delight of the flies, bees and wasps who all seem to be enjoying their nectar. This small Angelica plant was flowering this morning by the side of Mapperley Reservoir.
Nearby, a plant we don't see much of around these parts, but one which was nevertheless, flowering away beautifully this morning, the Bistort (Persicaria bistorta).
Fairly common in the UK, it prefers damp meadows and wet places of all sorts and flowers from mid to late summer. A member of the Knotweed family, it is a native of Britain and Europe and has been used in traditional medicines and as an ingredient in a traditional Easter pudding.
While on the subject of watersides, the views across Osborne's Pond a couple of days ago, were lovely.
The sun was shining on the Swans and ducks and the when viewed from the shade of the Oak tree there could be nothing nicer.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Few More Pix

Late Summer always sees the hedgerows flushing with a second wave of colour. In the hedges themselves, the Snowberry Bushes are fruiting and flowering all at the same time. Round, succulent, white fruits...
... follow the tiny, pink flowers.
Related to the Pheasant berry and Honeysuckle, these berries are a great source of food for Pheasants (unsurprisingly), grouse and quail. Snowberries are poisonous to humans however, causing dizziness and vomiting.
Closer to the ground, the Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) is a welcome sight at this time of year. The common name Butter-and-eggs sums up the appearance of these colourful flowers.
The flower structure is reminiscent of the familiar Snapdragon, to which they are closely related. A tea made from the leaves of Toadflax is said to be a good laxative and diuretic. A cream made from the flowers and leaves can be used to treating piles too. Very useful!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


With the sun shining on us again this morning, we thought a longer walk was needed, so it was off to Mapperley Reservoir once more, via Shipley Hill. The reservoir was looking wonderful in the sun.
Away across the water, at the far side, the yellow Water Lilies are still in flower and defined the edge of the reservoir beautifully.
Blue skies and a few puffy, white clouds overhung the scene.
Along with the ubiquitous lines of aircraft con-trails.
The forecast is for rain again later, so better make the most of it while you can!

Monday, 17 August 2015

A Few More Flowers

The height of summer always seems to bring a reduction in the wild, floral display of the countryside. Having said that, there are still a good number of plants in flower, some native and some foreign invaders. Among the most common of the native species at the moment, is the Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).
Also known as Common Wormwood, and has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. Culpepper described it as being a herb of Venus and as such, was useful in the treatment of 'women's problems'. It is also said to 'break the stone' and clear the urinary tract. Very useful!
The other flower to mention today, is a non-native and invasive species, the Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).
Growing to 6ft tall or more, this is an imposing and beautiful plant with striking flowers of wonderful colour and somewhat odd shape. Mostly a pale pink colour, the picture above shows that they come in many shades, some darker than others. These are growing near to Head House Farm.
Related to the familiar Busy Lizzie they have an explosive way of distributing their seeds. The pods within which the seeds are to be found, curl and twist as they ripen. This creates stresses within the pod which give way suddenly when touched, making the pod burst with a loud pop, sending seeds flying in all directions. It is from this that the plant is sometimes known as Touch-me-not. A beautiful flower, even if it an unwelcome invader in some parts.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Sunny Waterside

The sunshine and warm temperatures this morning, were our cue to take a walk around Mapperley Reservoir - and take the flask with us too. This time, we stopped for coffee before we circumnavigated the reservoir to avoid the expected increase in people numbers later on.
After coffee, we set out around the water's edge and were immediately impressed by the vast number of water lily pads which have covered the water's surface.
On the banks of the reservoir, tall stands of Common Ragwort, echoed the yellow of the water lilies and provided a wonderful feeding station for large numbers of Hoverflies.
The deep pink/purple of the Great Willowherb was also colouring the scene.
Looking into the shallows, small fish were to be seen, hiding among the lilies and trying to keep out of sight of the Common Tern which was quartering back and forth across the reservoir, looking for a meal.
A nice morning for a walk and, as it turned out, not too busy either!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Stormy Skies

Having spent the last few days doing a spot of home decorating, we were only too pleased to be out and about this morning for a walk around Shipley Park. Timing was important today as it looked as if we were not going to get far before the heavens opened and we got a good soaking. But, taking our umbrellas as insurance, we set out to do the 'farm walk'. As we passed the local wildlife trust meadows, we were delighted to see the Highland Cattle again.
While 'mum' was keeping her head down, munching on the new grass shoots, 'junior' was having fun with a small branch sticking out of the trees.
Suddenly becoming aware that there was a camera pointing at him, he posed for a second or two before walking off.
Carrying on along the footpath around theses meadows, the views across Shipley Park were rather good, especially with the glowering clouds gathering above.
The dark clouds contrasted well with the sun-lit grasses and the green of the trees in the distance on Shipley Hill.
By now, we thought it prudent not to hang about too long, so headed for home.
After all that, we avoided the rain so didn't need those umbrellas after all!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

High Summer

So here we are, well into another month and Summer is slipping past alarmingly quickly. One sure sign of high summer and it's relentless rush towards autumn, is the arrival of the tall, stately and attractive Angelica flowers (Angelica sylvestris).
The red stems and generally large size of this wild flower, make it unmistakable. A member of the carrot family, it has been used as a culinary ingredient for centuries, indeed it was regularly used as a vegetable right up until the 20th century and is a good source of vitamin C. The stems were eaten raw and the leaves were boiled and eaten like any other 'greens'.
This morning's walk took us through a summer meadow inhabited by a small group of Highland Cattle.  One of the cows has recently given birth to a rather gorgeous calf and this little charmer was taking things easy under the trees at the edge of the meadow, while being watched closely by 'mum'.
Clearly, watching us walk by was all too much like hard work and junior was soon nodding off again in the warm sunshine, while 'mum' availed herself of the fresh green grass growing through the fence.