Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Shipley Estate

The Shipley estate, once the ancestral home of the Miller-Mundy family, is still full of surprises and all-round colour. We started the year with millions of Snowdrops, followed by the Daffodils and then an explosion of flower in the form of Cherries and Bluebells. Now however, it's the turn of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas to take centre stage.
Many different varieties grace the Old Hall gardens and their flowers almost overload the senses with colour.
Mauve and pink are the dominant colours, but they vary from white...
... through deep pinks and reds... (Malcolm seems to be drawn to these).
to the bright orange and yellows of these azaleas.
The yellow Azalea (Rhododendron luteum) also has a magical scent.
Despite being demolished in 1943, the legacy of Shipley Hall, still lives on in the gardens and grounds.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Buttercups and Oak Apples

Getting back to our local environment, we have enjoyed some fine, warm - if not hot - weather recently. This has brought out the flowers around Shipley Park. In the fields, Buttercups have begun to carpet the green.
This field, discovered as we peered through the trees along what we know as the 'Donkey Walk', looked particularly golden.
A little closer to home, the Buttercups were joined by stands of Cow Parsley along the old railway embankment beside Pewit Carr.
Wherever they are, Buttercups always give great value, especially when the sun shines on them, making them glow with a golden-yellow sheen.
Gall wasps create some fantastic and strange growths on the Oak trees of Britain. Normally around these parts, we can see spangle galls, marble galls, cherry galls and artichoke galls. This year however, we have noticed a large number of Oak Apples growing on the new shoots of our local Oaks.
These galls are quite large, being up to 2 inches across and indeed look like small apples hanging from the tree. The insect which causes these however, is far smaller. Biorhiza pallida is no more than a quarter of an inch long. Having hatched in the winter, female wasps climb up the Oak trees in spring, lay their eggs in the forming buds, injecting a venom into the bud at the same time. This venom, causes the bud to swell hugely as the developing larvae inside, secrete substances which make the gall grow even larger, thus protecting the grubs. There may be up to 30 developing grubs inside each gall.
Males and female emerge from different galls after two or three months and mate. Females then descend to the ground and lay their eggs in the roots of the Oak, forming more galls on those roots, which in turn, hatch out into more, wingless females which climb the trunk in spring, starting the cycle all over again. Brilliant!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Lugano Round-up

To finish with our Lugano trip, here are a few pictures which haven't made it onto the blog yet.
On Wednesday, we were fortunate enough to meet up with Malcolm's Swiss family, who had all come down to Lugano to see us and treated to lunch. From the terrace of the Ana Capri Restaurant, we had a great view over the city towards Monte Bre, where we would be on Friday. Spot the Alpine Swifts!
The dominant feature of the city from here was the tower of Lugano Cathedral, seen here through the flower stems of lavender.
Some of the best views were from the summit of San Salvatore.
From there, we could look down onto our hotel - with a swimming pool on the roof!
Back down to city level, by funcular...
At the lake-side, the reflections were good too..
and from out on the water, we had far-reaching views along the length of the lake.
Little did we know at the time, that the water was home to some exotic species too. This invasive species of Red-eared Terrapin or Pond Slider has become a nuisance all over the world and it seems that Lugano has not escaped the invasion.
So, lets finish with a last view of Lugano - both lake and city - from Monte San Salvatore and look back on another lovely holiday in Switzerland.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Monte Bre

Sitting at the northern end of the bay in which Lugano sits, the small mountain of Monte Bre is something of a sister to San Salvatore to the south. On our last day in Switzerland, we braved the forecast of bad weather and took the funicular to the top. It turned out that the weather worked in our favour as we had the whole mountain virtually to ourselves.
The first section of the funicular, took us a little way up and gave us views over Lugano and up Monte Boglia to the north.
 At the top, meadows of wildflowers defied the weather.
Lots of low cloud gave a dramatic look to the scenery with dark clouds over head and wisps of white cloud clinging to the ground below us.
Restaurants, cafes and all the usual tourist things cluster at the top too, but the weather meant that these were either quiet or closed.
We had some fine views of San Salvatore...
And the whole panorama.
Looking down, we could just make out our hotel among the built up area of Paradiso and the fountain in the lake.
A little digital manipulation, gives the scene a painterly effect...
while the clouds parted over San Salvatore.
The highest point of Monte Bre is occupied by the small church of Maria Assunta, so we had to have a look in.
So, that's almost it. Just a few more 'odds and ends' to come tomorrow.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Alpine Plants

Yesterday, I started to mention the wonderful gardens of the Villa Ciani. So today we'll have a little more of that, starting with another view of the lake with Azaleas to add a little colour.
Along the water's edge, more formal bedding plants were just beginning to get into their stride.
Here too, an intricately wrought gateway would have once led to a very grand mooring place for the Ciani brothers.
Dotted among the summer bedding, strangely clipped and shaped conifers added some height and architectural interest.
It wasn't only the formal gardens where floral colour was to be found particularly on our trip up Monte San Salvatore.
Many had been deliberately planted...
but plenty of wildflowers were growing there too. This turned out to be a new 'tick' for my list - an orchid called White Helleborine.
The alpine Pinks were another 'tick'.
as were the Alpine Rock-roses.
More tomorrow...

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Lake and Garden

While we were waiting to be rescued from our smoke-filled boat, we had ample time to enjoy the views across the water. In the foreground, the slight form of Monte Bre sat in front of larger Monte Boglia which marks another border between Switzerland and Italy. Away in the distance and shrouded in misty low cloud, the higher peak of Gazzirola sat between us and Bellinzona, the capital of the Ticino Canton.
Looking towards the city of Lugano we got a panoramic view of the various hotels and apartment buildings which lined the lakefront. Behind, the higher ground was that of the Parco del Tassino.
Looming over the southern part of the city, Monte San Salvatore dominated the scene.
All along the lake between Lugano and Gandria, houses seemed to cling to the edge of the land, dipping their toes into the lake. Whoever owns this house would certainly not be troubled by noisy neighbours.
Back on dry land, we walked around the beautiful, civic park. Known as the Parco Ciani, it was once the private garden around the Villa Ciani which still stands at its centre. Built by two brothers, Giacomo and Filippo Ciani between 1840 and 1843, it is now used for temporary art and historical exhibitions.
The grounds were well kept and planted with colourful bedding plants...
and a large number of specimen trees, some clipped into weird and wonderful shapes.
More of that tomorrow...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Boating Drama

On Thursday last week, we set out on a boat trip to the delightful water-side village of Gandria. The centre of the village is not accessible by motor vehicle, so there was a bit of climbing up and down some pretty steep streets as we explored the area.
There have been people living in the area for at least 2800 years and the first written records of the village date back to 1237. Many of the buildings in the village appeared quite ancient and the amount of restoration work which was being carried out seemed to back this up.
The village was well known for olive oil production until 1709 when a particularly cold winter, killed all the Olive trees. in 1856, silk production began, making the most of the area's abundant Mulberry trees which provided food for the silkworms. Being on the lake and so close to the border, it proved difficult for the village to control those borders and smuggling also became big business.
The village is dominated by the church of Saint Vigilio (a 4th century Bishop of Trento) who was supposedly stoned to death by shepherds who didn't like him sticking his nose into their age-old religious beliefs and trying to convert them to Christianity. The church itself, dates back to 1463 with many later additions.
All round the village, there were more flights of steps leading to different levels...
But from the top, we had some magnificent views out over the lake.
Looking along the valley towards the Italian towns of Porlezza in the distance and at the base of the rather pointy mountain to the left, Cima.
Soon it was time to leave and take an over-all look at the village from the water...
From this vantage point, the precipitous nature of the village can clearly be seen as its buildings cling to the side of the mountain.
Soon after these pictures were taken and as we were heading back to Lugano, the boat on which we were sailing, started to belch smoke from below deck and within a few minutes, we were drifting in the middle of the lake with the engine on fire, awaiting rescue from another launch. Fortunately, we were in no immediate danger from the engine - the real headache was provided by the large and extremely noisy group of Brazilian tourists who were on our boat. It might have been worth abandoning ship to get away from them alone! Still, no-one can say we don't see life!
More tomorrow.