Friday, 28 June 2013

Two Friday's Flowers

 I missed last weeks Friday's Flower (I was away with son #1 visiting university open days!) so I thought I'd cheat a little this week and have two!
The roses are just coming into bloom, but are looking a little sorry for themselves in the rain, and are covered in aphids. Ladybirds have been conspicuously absent this year, where are they all? I fear the cold spring has had an adverse effect on them. Hopefully they'll return and feast on all these aphids.

My second choice is foxgloves. The originals here I grew from seed, who joyfully self seeded and now there are foxgloves popping up everywhere. I love them, and so do the bees.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Elderflower & Thistle

Whilst picking elderflowers from my prized trees in the field, I noticed that the thistles were just coming into flower. I'm always drawn to thistles, possibly because of their height and strong form. Walking past literally hundreds of them, I began to notice the variety of colour. Some were almost plum, others magenta, then soft lilac and even white. My favourite was white with touches of pink on the petal tips and a pink centre, and I think it was the only one, though I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for more!

The elderflowers are so late this year, about a month behind and I struggled to find enough to make cordial. I had to widen my foraging area to seek out new trees. A couple of sunny days and they'll be in full flow and I can stock up the freezer with bottles of cordial to see us through the summer. There really is no nicer drink on a hot sunshiney day.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Choo, choo!

Littlest and I were invited to join an organised trip on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway .
He is going through the train stage so he loved every minute of it! Seeing the train 'drinking' from the water tower was a delight for him.
It's a beautiful journey from Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion, through farmland, joining the Banwy valley. Wildflowers line the track... ox-eye daisies, red campion.
The strong graphics on the carriages and trucks, and the fire buckets, caught my eye.
A lovely day out together.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Bwlch-y-Sarnau... a celebration

Yesterday I returned to my old childhood home up in the hills of Radnorshire. Bwlch-y-Sarnau (translates to 'gap in the hill') is in very wild, open countryside. Sheep farms and forestry dominate the landscape.
The reason for my return was to attend a celebration of past pupils and staff of the primary school. The school closed in 1990, making this one off reunion even more poignant.

We used to live on a small-holding at the bottom of the hill and my sister and I used to walk up the steep lane to school.  I had never realised what a fabulous view there was from the school windows.  
There were around 15-20 pupils in the whole school and at one time it was divided into the big class (juniors) and the little class (infants). It was very rare for any one year group to have more than 3 pupils! It was truly a wonderful experience.
The celebrations consisted of a display of photographs, some dating back to 1922. It was fascinating to see some of the local faces who I remember as elderly gentlemen as young school boys. Families rarely moved away and there are strong ties within all the neighbouring farms. I'm quite envious of the deep roots that those families have.
The baptist chapel, next door to the school played a vital role in keeping the community together, as it provided a regular social meeting place for what otherwise would be a very isolated existance. It was very fitting that part of the day's celebrations should be in the chapel, with hymns and readings, as well as memories of the school shared. The generations came together with one common theme. The celebrations concluded with the full chapel singing together... I had tears in my eyes. I was incredibly honored to have been a part of it.


These old photographs were inside the chapel. The original chapel, followed by the building of its 19th Century 'Arts and Crafts' inspired replacement.

I met old friends and chatted to others whom I struggled to recollect until my mind peeled back the years and the memories all came flooding back! I even met new people, one of whom used to live in our old house and that was a fascinating conversation!

I came away with a strong realisation of just how this hill and its people shaped who I am today. My love of nature, the appreciation of the simple things in life and overall the sense of community all started here. However I also realise how hard it is to live here. Jobs are few and far between if you're not farming and farming itself is incredibly difficult. The neareast shop, school, doctor is 8 miles away. Its stunning beauty can quickly become very bleak. I now have a deeper respect for the families who stayed put and continue to live a very blessed life in the 'gap in the hill'.

The old school is now run as a community centre which includes a toddler group so the sound of children can still be heard within those walls. Thank goodness...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Friday's Flower - Plume Thistle

Plume Thistle or its proper name 'cirsium rivulare atropurpurea' - tall and striking.
Dodged the showers this morning to pop into the garden to take this photograph, hence why you can see raindrops on the flowers.
The bees were still active however and this flower is one of their favourites. In fact one landed on it just after I took this picture.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Before and after...

You may remember the overgrown orchard with its carpet of snowdrops in which I 'peered through the hedge' a few months ago.
Recently the old apple trees have been smothered in blossom which looked amazing against the blue sky (already becoming a distant memory with the change in the weather...)

Buttercups, hogweed and nettles have taken over from the snowdrops. The gap in the hedge is barely visible with the hawthorn hedge in leaf.


A family of rabbits live in the old orchard, and Littlest demands we stop on our way home from school to see the 'eyy, eyy's' as he calls them (it does resemble a rabbits call when he says it, bizarrely!) 

Walking to and fro from school and playgroup along familiar routes, you do notice little changes and I'm grateful for my camera to record it. Just down the road is a small patch of 'wasteland' which is currently for sale as a building plot. It was covered in birdsfoot-trefoil, speedwell, orange hawkweed and herb robert. Such a beautiful sight, with bees buzzing all around, and I would try and pause for a few moments to take it all in. Yesterday I paused for longer and took this photograph...

And today... it looks like this!

All gone, strimmed down. I nearly cried!
So today's life lesson for me was to always try and stop and appreciate the beauty in the everyday, as it may be completely wiped out the next day!

Saturday, 8 June 2013




Over the past few days the weather has been glorious and I wanted to make the most of it by getting up at 2.45am (it was hardly worth going to bed!) to go on a Sunrise Walk. Son #2 and I had such a wonderful time together on our Dawn Chorus Walk last month and (thankfully!) he was keen to do it again, with the hope of actually seeing the sun rising up over the horizon.

Of course, dawn was even earlier this time around (sunrise was at 4.47am today) and it was hard getting up and out, but there is something so magical about being out and about at twilight, being part of the beginning of the day.

Seeing the pinky orange sun emerging in the distance was completely worth the effort to see it, and F was delighted.

The soft warm light on the dewy grass and bluebells.

Sheep on the hill rather surprised at having their breakfast interupted.

Along country lanes full of Cow Parsley.

And a new (to me) wildflower spot... Crosswort. A beautiful upright plant with tiny lime coloured flowers. The leaves are grouped in crosses up the stems. I only saw this clump growing in the roadside verge, but now I know what it is I'll no doubt spot it in all sorts of places.

Back home to greet the rest of the family just getting up!

It is now the end of the day, and I desperately need my bed. A long, but precious day.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Friday's Flower - Iris


Iris... I like the contrast between them and the euphorbia behind.

It's getting harder to choose my Friday's Flower as so many things are coming into flower. 
Here is a wide shot of the garden, in case you haven't seen it. It's not very big, with two long flower borders either side of the path (which ends with a picnic bench for eating out on) and a sloped grassy area for the boys to play on.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

On fast becoming a Speedwell nerd!


Since I've been (rather obsessively!) recording the wildflowers that I see on my daily rounds to the allotment, playgroup and school, I have come to realise that I have taken a lot for granted by presuming that I vaguely know the names of things. For example, for years I've just thought of speedwell as... well, er... 'speedwell'. But no... did you know that there are twelve*  varieties of speedwell!

The boys are becoming quite used to me suddenly stopping and exclaiming 'Look, there's a different one!', as I've spotted yet another variety. To my amazement I've found six, often growing in grassy areas or on rough ground by pavements.

Roger Phillips' book 'Wild Flowers of Britain' has become my favourite read these days, as you can tell by the style of my picture above. It's a brilliant book for identification, as flowers are grouped together according to the time of year they flower.
I'm sure you're all eager to know which varieties of speedwell these actually are... or perhaps that should read what I think they are (if I have misidentified any please do let me know!)

Wall Speedwell : Creeping Speedwell : Thyme-leaved Speedwell : Ivy-leaved Speedwell : Persian Speedwell : Germander Speedwell

I have really enjoyed learning all about these beautiful little blue flowers. Did you also know that they are sometimes known as 'birds eye' or 'gypsyweed' and that Persian Speedwell was introduced here from Asia and now is one of the most common speedwells! Fascinating stuff!

* as listed in 'Wild Flowers of Britain' by Roger Phillips

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Rhubarb Cordial


My first harvest this year from the allotment is Rhubarb. I'm not a great fan of Rhubarb Crumble or Pie so I'm always looking out for something else to do with it it...

So I tried Sarah Raven's recipe for Rhubarb Cordial as K and the boys are great cordial drinkers.


It was delightfully easy to make and the kitchen smelt wonderful as it was simmering.
After leaving it overnight to strain through a jelly bag, and adding some sugar, it was ready to bottle. I used some old glass mineral water bottles, to store in the fridge. I also put some in plastic 'squash' bottles to freeze.


The colour is just incredible and I love looking at it every time I open the fridge. 
The taste is good too, diluted with sparkling water. A very refreshing drink especially on a sunny day like the ones we've had this week.
I'll be making this again next year, perhaps holding back on using quite so many Star Anise (I put a whole packet in which I think was too many).

Now waiting for the Elder trees to flower. As with everything else this year, they are rather late, so I'm even more grateful for this Rhubarb Cordial.


Saturday, 1 June 2013

Dolgellau: and finally... cycling


For our final day, we cycled through Coed y Brenin forest.
We had a picturesque lunchtime stop by the river, on rocks by a bridge which surely has a troll living under it!
Out on the far side of the forest, is wild country.
In what seems like the middle of nowhere, a little Welsh Chapel with it's tiny graveyard. An old roman road runs by it. History runs deep in these parts.
We turn onto the roman road, now a beautiful track, (with some of the original stone slabs maybe?) up and over the mountain, to drop back into the forest.
A Cuckoo sang right above our heads, such a great sound.
Back through the forest.
We picked up Littlest's bike so that he could have a go at some off road biking, much to his delight.
Back home, to the caravan for some much needed hot chocolate.
One of the most enjoyable and beautiful bike rides.

If you would like to see the other Dolgellau posts:
setting up camp
up Cadair Idris
and then it rained