Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The first signs of Winter

Winter arrived overnight with a hard frost.

The softer plants like the Nasturtians have collapsed because they're mostly water, but we had already brought in the Aeonium and lagged the pot the Olive tree sits in (too big to bring into the house). The poppy, Patty's Plum, which is such a favourite in our house, had one last flowering just in time to be caught by the overnight freeze.

Anyway, it's not all downside; there are some wonderful sights to be seen. I caught these nettles just before the sun melted the frost - magical.

Mind you, you do have to be careful with ice all over the pavement!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Railways: keeping people in their place?

In a field a couple of villages away, there's a loco. It's there to attract attention and make people aware of the campaign to restore the local railway station, closed by Dr Beeching in the early 60s. See

I travelled to school every day on the train for a number of years and have very happy memories of the steam locos, coke fires in warm waiting rooms, gas lights and dripping water hydrants. Train spotting, Jubilee Class, LNER, sitting in the signal box…

My local station (then), Sutton Junction, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, was closed during the Beeching years.

Because the younger son has been borrowing my car, I’ve been using the railway to travel to and from work recently and have discovered just how limiting it really is. First, I have to drive to the station, two villages away, then pay what I regard as a very high sum for a return journey of 20 miles (£4.30) and, finally, wait on the cold station for the train to arrive, often late. I then have to walk from the station to the office. There’s a tight limit on what I can carry back and forth, and I have to stick to the railway company’s times, adding about an hour onto each day. With the car, there is complete freedom to come and go as I please; I can do errands at lunchtime, attend classes after work and ferry other people and equipment around.

It seems to me that the railways are an effective way of keeping people in their place, so perhaps I’m not such an enthusiast after all. I think long journeys on comfortable trains (if you can afford the complex fares) can be great – you can work, eat, listen to music, read, etc., all of which are denied to you while driving.

Even during my school days, we had to walk to the station, about three quarters of a mile away, down a narrow country lane, often blocked with snow, and it meant that I left home at 7.30 am and didn’t return home until 6pm (eat, homework, bed 10pm) what a life! I do understand that we can’t drive around for ever, but I just don’t like being kept in my place!

Slow Train
Flanders and Swann

Miller's Dale for Tideswell
Kirby Muxloe (2 villages from me)
Mow Cop and Scholar Green (where we used to keep our narrow boat Ophelia)
- All real places -

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Not bad for October, but...

It's another gloriously sunny Autumn day, so why am I sitting here blogging instead of getting the garden sorted for the Winter?

Well, I got up early yesterday and worked very hard.... Let me start again; I got up early yesterday morning to make a cup of tea, saw what a beautiful day it was and went straight out to start work. I then got told off for forgetting to make the bed!

There's still a lot going on in the garden, Nasturtians, Begonias and Dahlias are still in flower and the rose on the trellis still produces the odd bloom.

My main job was to lift and divide the Stipa Gigantea because it was overwhelming everything else (except the Acanthus, whic was also getting too big). First, however, I decided to clear out the Sweet Peas which were almost over anyway. I got enough blooms to fill a jug and it looks very summery in the dining room.

This is a photo of the Stipa and the Acanthus (actually from 3 years ago, so they're even bigger now). The Acanthus didn't really flower much this year and the Stipa swamped the Sweet Peas which were on the steel obelisk on the right. Added to this, we had a self-seeded Stipa Tenuissima incorporated into the bed, so it really needed sorting out.

I managed to divide it into enough pieces to give a couple away, plant one elsewhere and still have a fairly large piece to put back. I also chopped the Acanthus in half and planted one half down the bottom of the garden where we have a fairly bare patch since we cleared a lot of Ivy and cut back the Laurel hedge.

With a few other jobs done, we took a break at noon, had some home-made soup and went off Christmas shopping. (Yes, I know, but we were buying from a wholesaler and they run out of Christmas things about 1st November when all the retailers have stocked up.)

I thought I would add a few pics of other things going on in the Autumn garden.

Comma butterfly on the old plum tree

Nigella (Love in a Mist)

Poppy, Patty's Plum; still producing blooms

So, what about the "but..."? Well, I was right about my neighbour's chestnut tree. It looks like there will be little or no nuts this year, and the tree itself doesn't look too well. I hope it's going to be OK and that there will be nuts next year.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Wot, no chestnuts?

Everyone knows what a difficult year this has been for growing fruit, Oh, the apples and pears have done well, but the stone fruits haven't performed like they did last year. Now, I think my neighbour's chestnuts are opening too early and the nuts aren't swelling.

She put the tree in just over 20 years ago and it fruited for the first time the year before last; it did very well and the nuts were delicious. Last year, there was nothing and again this year it looks as if the crop has failed. I know that sweet chestnuts can be temperamental, but this is a real disappointment.
Meanwhile, the rain is ruining the mushrooms...