Today’s Treasures – Blackberry Fair

Blackberry Fair 2018

The subtle tones of an acoustic guitar serenade volunteers setting up tables in the hall – getting ready for workshops for youngsters – crafting items for the Carnival of Plenty – little ones create leaves for the Tree of Life – and older ones decorate poles with different bits and pieces that glow, and shine and rattle.

Volunteers appear for a welcome hot drink after putting up gazebos and  distributing sofas to strategic points about the town, musicians have finished setting up speakers and microphones – the stage is set for Blackberry Fair to begin once again.

The music changes and we’re clapping hands in time to a drumbeat, accompanied by a guitar – and voices join in singing well known songs. Next come the Urban Gypsies, dancing, swinging, gyrating to gypsy music – looking around, everyone is foot-tapping, clapping, swaying in time to the music – mesmerised – no-one can keep still.

Then comes the Whitchurch Brass Band, trumpets and cornets – and all conversation ceases as tubas and trombones send oompahs and oom-pah-pahs reverberating around the walls.  Lunchtime, there’s such a lot to choose from – wild boar burgers, freshly made pizzas, ice creams, and deliciously decorated cupcakes, with real beers and ciders to wash it all down with.

Blackberry Fair has an atmosphere all its own, the spirit of poetry, singers, dancers, actors, fine foods, real beers, street theatre, costumes and characters, Urban Gypsies and Morris Dancers, skateboarding and stilt walking, jugglers and firebreathers – all join Harminder the Elephant in the Carnival of Plenty procession at the end of the afternoon.

Entertainment continues into the night with live steel band music and fireworks – and another Blackberry Fair comes to an end with lots of happy memories for families to take home.  “Our children made puppets, crushed apples, watched films, literally the whole of Whitchurch was alive, down every street and avenue – it’s the best fair we’ve ever been to.”

Published in the November edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – The Big Butterfly Count

This year I took part in the Big Butterfly Count

www.bigbutterflycount.org

As soon as the buddleia comes out I always take some time to watch the myriad different butterflies who just love the purple spikes.  There’s often a dozen peacock butterflies sunning themselves on the flowers, sipping nectar, fluttering their wings and showing off their spectacular colours.

Counting butterflies on a beautiful sunny afternoon is a tranquil, calming experience, watching them flutter from flower to flower, sometimes dancing together against the blue sky and skating clouds, seeing how many different butterflies join the feast; large and small whites love the flowers and there’s usually one or two red admirals and commas as well.  This year there were also two painted lady butterflies – but no small tortoiseshells – evidently they have been attacked by a parasitic fly – one of the reasons why David Attenborough’s butterfly count is so important – we can see the effects of these invasive insects.

Butterflies love buddleia because it produces lots of nectar, its deep flowers are accessible only to insects with long tongues and its flowers are clustered together so a butterfly can collect lots of nectar from one place.  Verbena and cosmos also attract butterflies – and food plants for their caterpillars include nettles and thistles.  Also ragwort which is a fascinating plant to watch – dozens of different insects love the flowers and the black and yellow caterpillars of the beautiful red cinnabar moth love the leaves.

I also discovered that we have two different blue butterflies – the common blue – which likes bird’s foot trefoil – and the holly blue which (as the name suggests) feeds on holly (and ivy).

Meadow browns (left) and ringlets (right) love the marjoram in my herb garden.

Published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Summer is here at last!

Today’s Treasures – summer is here at last

Summer took so long to arrive, it was so cold – and so wet – for so long, we seemed to miss Spring altogether and, when the sun finally did come out, summer crash landed with a profusion of flowers, all blooming at the same time.  The daffodils slowly struggled into life, then the sun shone and the tulips rapidly joined them, celandines and coltsfoot dotted the hedgerows and then they all quickly faded away, giving way to bluebells and buttercups.

All the flowers came out in rapid succession with hardly any time to savour their individual colours and scents.  The apple blossom was amazing, a profusion of apple white touched with pink, raining down confetti petals in the breeze.  Now lilacs and wisteria vie for attention with their delicate mauves and sweet scents.

The clematis climbing up the ancient barn surprised me one morning with an array of flowers which seemingly opened overnight and, trying to catch up with weeding the vegetable patch I looked up and suddenly noticed that the irises were all out, flashing their yellow flowers at the sun.

And the roses – they all seemed to bloom together, to open in a rush, to catch the sunshine, before it disappeared again.  Clouds of petals, sweetly scented, creating a beautiful archway that saturates the senses with perfumed peachy petals, a paradise for bees.

I almost despaired of ever planting the onions and potatoes this year, it was so cold, and the garden was so wet you couldn’t tell where the pond ended and the garden began.  A veritable smorgasbord for slugs and snails who have proliferated everywhere, I like those little banded snails which are so pretty but not the slimy slugs, you would need really big frogs to eat some of the slugs I’ve found this year.

I was really worried about the frogs, they were very late arriving in the pond to find a mate, then when the first frog spawn did appear, the pond froze over again and I thought the tiny eggs would all die – but they didn’t and the tadpoles have had lots of rainwater to grow up in.

The fields are now full of buttercups ‘the little children’s dower’ I often think of William Wordsworth languishing abroad and am so glad I live in England – even with its precocious weather.

This article was published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

My 12 days of New Year Today’s Treasures

Special moments to treasure every day #mentalhealthin2018

Day 1:  A free range egg for breakfast from #happy #hens #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 2:  Herbal tea made with fresh #herbs – camomile, mint, hyssop, thyme, sage will all grow in windowsill pots #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 3:  Watching the wild #birds eating the food I have put out for them #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 4:  Eating fresh fruit #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 5:  Walking in the #sunshine – even if it’s not sunny – fresh air helps clear your mind #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 6:  A vase of wild #flowers or winter berries on the kitchen windowsill I can look at whilst washing up #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 7:  A smile – smiling makes you feel better, sharing a #smile makes two people feel better #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 8:  Listening to the birds #singing especially the robin – beautiful, mellow, liquid notes #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 9:  #hugs – everyone needs hugs – if you don’t believe me just try it with an open #mind #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 10:  #music – but especially sharing live music #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 11:  #sunset watching the sun go down #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 12:  Writing helpful happy #tweets and posting pretty pictures on #twitter #happiness #mentalhealthin2018

Autumn, season of mellow mists and fruitfulness

 Autumn at Brown Moss

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In Shropshire you never have to go far to find tranquillity.  We are surrounded by fields, trees, hedges and streams but, even in our market towns, there are pockets of greenness where you can think and breathe; space to relax and remind yourself of the beauty that is all around us – the wings of a butterfly, the fragile petals of a flower, the delicate notes of birdsong all around you.

Shropshire is a haven for wildlife, the meres and mosses support strange species like sundew – a tiny insect eating plant; Prees Heath Common hosts the silver-studded blue butterfly that needs both heather and ants in order to survive.  Brown Moss, one of the smaller meres, provides the perfect habitat for the rare nodding bur-marigold and is much loved by many species of water birds.  Dragonflies and damselflies make the meres, mosses, streams and canals their home and dart and flutter amidst the reeds and rushes.

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Take a walk around Brown Moss in the early morning sunshine, relax for a moment, close your eyes, listen to the sound of birds twittering in the trees, ducks and geese spreading their wings or landing with a splash on the water.  And make the most of the September sunshine sparkling on dewdrops and spiders webs; soak up the warmth – before Will’o’the’Wisps bring the chill of Autumn and Winter arrives with Jack Frost.

Brown Moss is maintained and monitored by Shropshire Volunteer Rangers.  Volunteering is an excellent ways to get out of the house, meet people, get some exercise and be involved in the local community.  If you would like to help with things like keeping the paths clear or surveying the site they are always glad of any help – no experience, commitment or fitness necessary.  Contact le[email protected]

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Published in the September edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

The days are getting longer

The days are getting longer, Spring is in the air, with the promise of summer to come, there’s a great sense of excitement in the garden, you can almost feel the grass growing and the daffodils bursting into brilliant yellow splashes of sunshine.

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Here is Charlie with his foster-mum – Mrs Grey – and I’ve called the other chick Ebony – I think he (or she) is a pure  is a pure Vorwerk.  If so (s)he’ll look like one of these when (s)he grows up:

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This is Captain Von Vorwerk with Violet, they are quite impressive hens and they lay little white eggs.