Wildlife Homes and Green Men

When we opened our garden last August under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme and appeared in its famous Yellow Book we included in our details that we welcomed children. We were aware that few gardens make this obvious so we decided to reverse the trend. We made a few quiz sheets available for them to encourage them to look closely. They were very popular and most youngsters had a go. Some were very determined to find everything on the sheets. Great fun!

One quiz sheet featured our little collection of “green men” which we have scattered around the garden, some of which are hard to find.

The other invited our children visitors to seek out the large variteies of wildlife homes, shelters and nesting places.

I thought you might like to see the photos of the green men and our wildlife features. Amongst the green men is a definite intruder who lives in our Japanese Garden on the trunk of the Salix flexuosa.

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So now to our huge variety of wildlife features all designed and carefully placed to welcome all sorts of creatures, large and small.

Places for our feathered friends to roost and nest ………………

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Places for beetles, invertebrates and amphibians ……………………….

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Places for bees, lacewing and ladybirds ……………..

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Places for all sorts of beneficial creatures – whoever wishes to drop in ……………………

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We will have to think up some more quizes for our young visitors later this year.

 

 

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Three Cathedrals – Wells Cathedral – Part Two

Welcome back to Wells Cathedral. In part two we will be looking at an amazing staircase and some recent features.

The staircase is wide and gently rising and even more gently curving. They have a design that has elements of modern ideas.

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Truly modern design exists in the wooden furniture used by the Bishop and his cohorts. Clean lines and pale wood create beautiful sculptural pieces. Fine examples of beauty working with function.

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Another modern item is this fabric hanging in delicate shades of blue and purple. Every breeze adds movement and each fold catches the light.

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In contrast let us look at a few of examples of work wrought by ancient craftsmen, in stone, metal and glass.

 

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At the top of the stairwell we looked at earlier we discovered the Chapter House, a place of quiet and peace. Whenever visitors such as us entered this room they sat and talked quietly to their companions or else just sat alone looking around them. They looked upwards at its complex vaulted ceiling and the striped columns rising to meet it, or read the scripts found on the brass plaques around the walls.

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We shall finish off this look at the cathedral at Wells with a few shots of its famous archway shaped like a number 8, which is called the Scissors Arch. It is beautiful and as far as I know unique, but there is such a simple reason for being there. It is to prevent the collapse of the central tower.

 

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Whilst at Wells we wandered around the Bishops Garden which we enjoyed immensely. Look out for a post about it coming soon.

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Three Cathedrals – Wells – Part One

Welcome to the next cathedral in my Three Cathedral series of posts.

We visited Wells Cathedral decades ago and we remembered very little of it apart from a wide sweeping stone stairway. So when we returned in the autumn we looked forward to reacquainting ourselves with its architecture. We guessed where the Cathedral would be in the little city of Wells by following the wide street with its market right to its very end. The market stalls almost funneled us towards the cathedral gates. 

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Just before entering the cathedral grounds we came across this beautifully colourful National Trust shop.

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An open green with specimen trees showed us the way to go.

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Wells Cathedral is a tall imposing structure designed to dominate the city and its inhabitants.

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A modern entrance had been added in recent years to give visitors a comfortable way in and to preserve the main doorway in. The use of green oak and matching stone ensured that the modern extension fitted beautifully and most sympathetically. the new entrance also carefully led us to a new cafe again designed to match. From every one of its windows we got views to entice us onward to explore.

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The vaulted ceiling of the cloister walk has been sensitively restored to show its intricate complex web of wooden beams.

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As well as architecture it is the craftsmanship displayed in our old ecclesiastical buildings that impresses us most. It is good to see them well preserved and carefully, lovingly looked after.

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Often when exploring church buildings it is possible by looking up, to discover carvings of characters. like this “impish” character below left. He looks like he is plotting his next trick. The wooden carving on the left was high up and hard to see in detail and he was part of an ancient complex clock.

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Let us finish this first part of two posts about Wells Cathedral by looking at other characters we managed to find hidden here and there throughout the great building.

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In part two we carry on with our tour and discover an amazing curved staricase and some modern additions.

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A Stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path – Part Two

Welcome back after a bit of a rest and we continue along the beautiful coastal footpath towards the headland at St David’s Head. You left us with our goal in sight as we began our way across rougher moorland.

We were walking a stretch of the coastal path in Penbrokeshire which was my challenge for 2014. We set out intending to walk a mile, far more than I should be walking. We found ourselves going further than intended and still had not turned back. I set myself a new extended challenge. To walk the mile to the headland of St David’s Head and back again. I knew I would suffer for days after but I am a stubborn chap.

We carried on, crossing over a crystal clear waters of a tiny mountain stream. We stopped a while to enjoy the sounds of water rippling over rock, a sound that always makes us feel good! Letting our eyes follow the stream’s track to the sea showed light over the water more akin to late afternoon, almost the sort of light that comes shortly before a sunset, but it was still early afternoon.

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We followed the narrow and at times wet track along the cliff top, all the time keeping our eye on the headland we were aiming for, but at times it disappeared from view. Bracken and fungi grew in the short grass, close cropped by sheep.

 

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We followed a stream against the downhill direction of its journey, gradually climbing all the time. We were constantly stopped in our tracks by the beauty of the landscapes. Enjoy my photos!

 

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When we reached our destination we enjoyed a good rest, sitting on comfortable and convenient rock outcrops. Coffee, fruit and in my case a good dose of Ventolin helped refresh us. We felt so pleased, so satisfied. We enjoyed the views from this vantage point, where we could appreciate a vast panorama.

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The rock faces were painted in lichen and the grass dotted with fungi even in this bleak place.

 

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From where we sat we spotted a cairn marking the highest point on the headland. We just had to walk a few hundred yards more. Of course along the way we searched for a stone each to allow ourselves to follow our tradition of placing it on the cairn.

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We found returning to our starting point a lot easier following a steady downhill track.

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Stonechats followed alongside us as we neared the end of our walk. I managed this one poor photo of one of them.

 

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Back where we started off from we can look back over the same wall and appreciate just how far we have been. We could see the headland we had aimed for and reached in the misty distance. We felt exhausted but very satisfied.

 

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Posted in countryside, landscapes, light, light quality, National Trust, photography, The National Trust, the sea, the seaside, the shore, Wales, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path – Part One

Every year I set myself a challenge that defies my disability. Something totally silly if I take my health into consideration! Something I definitely should not be doing! But these challenges are great fun! I love them! Jude accepts my need to do them but worries when we are following these strange desires. Sometimes I have a need to go a bit further than my actual abilities!

For 2014 my challenge was to walk a mile along a stretch of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, probably the most beautiful of Britain’s long distance paths. For me a single mile is a long distance walk! I did it in late November and survived! Okay I suffered for a good few days after but boy did it feel good! I had such a feeling of elation when I finished the walk. Anyone else would have to climb Everest to get the same thrill! My consultant was proud of me. He likes my crazy ideas.

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So come with us on our trek along the windswept coast near St Davids. As we dressed in suitable gear for a walk in the cold and most likely wet weather we noticed these two using the beautiful backdrop to take photos of their stained glass window. No doubt some great shots will appear in their promotional materials.

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We made our way onto the path by passing through a beautiful stone wall. A sign with wording engraved on slate informed us that the walk to St David’s Head was 1 mile. I hoped to make half way to give us a round trip of 1 mile.

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Jude looked ahead and could see just how far away the headland was that I was aiming to reach. She thought I was mad! We soon started finding colour in the tough grasses – wildflowers of coastal habitats. The first was this Armeria, the Sea Thrift. Close by the much brighter coloured Gorse added a bit of sunshine colour.

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This little delicate plant foiled us completely – neither of us could remember what it was.

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Every rock was painted with Lichen and Mosses. They look just like they have been daubed by an artist. These rocks had fallen from the field boundaries that are specific to this area – stones with soil in the gaps and on top. The soil provides homes for the local flora.

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The light was changing by the minute. We could be in sunshine one minute and then under heavy storm clouds the next. Just see the extremes in the photos below taken within minutes of each other. The temperature varied in the same way – hats and gloves were on and off all the time.

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What made this walk extra special was that it gave double value. We had views over the inlets and headlands over one shoulder and views of the countryside inland over the other.

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As we passed through a wooden gate the landscape changed and the views opened up. The signs on the gatepost invited us to carry on with our walk but be careful not to fall off the cliffs! We hadn’t been planning to! The National Trust sign informed us that we were on St David’s Head. We realised then that we had already walked further than we had intended. We should have turned back and made our way back but my stubborn nature won over and we decided to carry on perhaps making it to the headland in the far distance. This would give us a total walk of two miles. Far more than I should have been contemplating! We had rugged open moorland to cross to reach the headland itself.

 

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Jude was fascinated by a label hanging over a rock and just had to have a close look. We found it was a marker point on a trail laid out as part of an army training session. We were tempted – just for a moment – to pick it up and take it back to the local barracks to tell them we had found this label. Common sense prevailed however and we resisted the temptation.

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In the photo below we can see the headland for which we were aiming right on the horizon.

 

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My legs are aching and pain is creeping up my spine just writing this post and loading the photos so we shall take a break for now and return in Part Two.

 

 

Posted in countryside, landscapes, light, light quality, National Trust, photography, The National Trust, the sea, the seaside, the shore, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Botanic Garden of Wales in the Rain – part two.

Welcome back to South Wales where we were enjoying a very wet visit to the Botanic Gardens. In part one we looked at the magnificent glasshouse before taking a break. In part two we carry on in the heavy rain. Winding paths provided us with interesting routeways through the newly planted gravel and rock borders full of interesting foliage all glistening with rain droplets.

The black seed heads of an Eryngium looked in sharp contrast to the pale blue-grey foliage of the Euphorbia close behind.  A beautiful oak bench of the simplest design was far too wet to enjoy sitting on. Wet rocks looked full of colour – in the dry they would have been almost monochrome. Grasses always look so good with rock!

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Grass borders with every blade moving in waves like a rough sea are here edged with the neatest of low Box hedging. A bench of modern design looked so good against the Box and grasses. Trees in near silhouette looked good against biscuit coloured grasses.

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We got soaked through on our walk towards the walled garden but I was still tempted to stop to take a few shots of grasses and my favourite Betulas and some more simple oak block seating.

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Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench aka The Undergardener, thought she looked good in this throne! It was a pity her feet didn’t reach the ground – it spoiled the illusion somewhat! It was hard to get her off it! The throne sat under an oak framed arbor with a slate floor, both local materials. Drawings of dragons were etched into some of the slate.

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Once in the walled garden, a unique double-walled garden in fact, we enjoyed seeing what the local school children had been up to on their plots. A beautiful bug hotel, a greenhouse made from recycled drinks bottles and an ingenious method comfrey feed all held our interest in spite of the rain.

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Once inside the tropical glasshouse we certainly warmed up but my glasses and camera lens both misted up. It took a while for us and the camera to acclimatise. When we did, we were enthralled by foliage of all shapes and sizes, many patterned and textured. Just enjoy the photos.

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The few blooms present were bright and gaudy!

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When we last visited this garden these old Victorian range of glasshouses were covered in scaffolding so it was great to see they had been renovated and planted up. While the modern curved glasshouse houses temperate plants we were pleased to have discovered the contrast with these old ones housing their tropical plants. It was hot and very humid! The variety of planting was impressive!

The only trouble with the comfort we felt inside the glasshouse was that when we left we had to return to the reality of the wet, cold Welsh weather.

Posted in colours, garden design, garden furniture, garden photography, garden seating, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, grasses, indoor plants, ornamental grasses, ornamental trees and shrubs, recycling, Wales, walled gardens, Winter Gardening, winter gardens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Botanic Garden of Wales in the Rain – part one

We have come to love visiting gardens in the rain. We put up the brollies and huddle together for protection and just defy the downpours. But on a November day at The Botanic Gardens of Wales the rain was so heavy it beat even us! It was horrendous! This beautiful piece of sculpture managed to glow out in the gloom. It looked like the bark of a tree or the structure of ivy climbing a wall or …….. whatever you wish.

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We did though enjoy a little time in the rain but soon escaped by making for the magnificent glasshouse. The glasshouse emerges from the gently sloping landscape like an armadillo. On this visit it was barely visible against the low deep grey clouds.

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Once inside, the curving lines spanning overhead immediately drew our eyes upward. When architects get greenhouses right they can be dramatic and powerful but still gentle and full of beautiful curves. This is one of the best we have ever visited if not the best of all. It looks so good from both inside and out. From the outside it emerges from the countryside as if it is meant to be there, enhancing the undulation it sits on. From inside it cocoons the visitor in an atmosphere of warmth and greenery.

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The plant life housed there sits happily in micro-climates made for them. Greenhouse often seem to contain big blousie blooms with too much colour and all full of drama but here things had a subtle beauty. Very stylish. Often the colours were very delicate.

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Bright colours weren’t altogether absent though with plenty of fiery oranges and gaudy pinks. We were taken aback by the size of this Leonotis as it soared to over head height alongside the path. At home in our garden we get it to grow to about two feet tall.

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Blue flowers are often not a pure blue but these definitely were as blue as could possibly be.

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We enjoyed studying the foliage here as much as the flowers, with so much variation in size, colour, texture and shape.

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This Robin was enjoying reading the info on this sign but we were more impressed by those signs which relied on simple symbols demarcating each zone.

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We were amused when we came across this warning triangle, not the usual red unfriendly type found on roadsides but a green edged warning that gardeners were at work. The gardeners were very friendly ones too!

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After wandering around the giant glasshouse absorbed in the beauty of plants from around the temperate world we deserved our lunch break. We shared our break with our red-breasted friend who seemed to have followed us from the glasshouse.

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Some original and colourful craftwork graced the foyer. This piece was created using broken pottery shards. Join us in part two when we braved the heavy rain for as long as we could.

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Posted in buildings, garden buildings, garden design, garden photography, gardening, gardens, gardens open to the public, outdoor sculpture, sculpture, succulents, Wales | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment