Darter on a July evening

It was a perfect evening tonight , warm and clear. At 8 pm a walk through the meadow to the lake edge was perfect. There were skylarks singing , rabbits running , butterflies and insects busy everywhere .

This meadow area is alive with damselflies and dragonflies flitting through the tall grasses.

At the lakeside I tracked a fantastic dragonfly which I had also seen in the grasses . It is a female ruddy darter . Very beautiful.

I enjoy spending time at the edge of the lake. There is so much going on amongst the tall vegetation along the banks.

The colours of flowers have moved into pinks and purples.

The meadow on the walk back looked magical in the evening.

A super summer walk .

Magazine EXPLORATIONS

The magazine that has developed from naturetableexplorer.com is being launched this Saturday at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire. This is an exciting project that is aiming to bring together people interested in natural history and the environment to contribute and become part of the magazine.

This issue is 52 pages full from cover to cover of wonderful natural history . A huge thank you to people who have contributed. Issue 2 is planned for December . If a you would like to be part of this magazine please send your ideas, photos or complete article to naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com

The magazine will be available to buy after the launch on the 13/7/19 and I will post more information.

It would be fantastic if you could be involved.

EXPLORE MORE

March of the molluscs

Although more of a slither than a march the molluscs were all on the move this morning.

It had been a dry night and these creatures were all on grit ( this is supposed to deter them in the garden !) They seemed completely at home on it and were moving quickly along.

This handsome black slug looks like a shiny piece of liquorice. As I got close to it with the phone it lifted its head and decided to change direction.

There were a large number of these black slugs on the gritty paths.

The next encounter was a snail , there were a few snail casualties along the way crushed under foot.

Another slug this time lighter and brown in colour.

Then even more snails, this time banded.

This treacherous path ‘marching’ seems strange when either sides of the path is full of lush vegetation ( super mollusc food)

This short walk was scattered with slugs and snails,another day I will count them and report a mollusc/ mile number !

As we left the lake the thistles were looking spectacular.

World travel on a hillside

I can’t say enough good things about Batsford Arboretum. It is 64 acres of trees and plants on a hillside in the Cotswolds. It contains 2850 labelled specimens , there are 1,300 different species of trees shrubs and bamboos.

There is a emphasis on plants from the Far East but also from other areas of the world. Last year a Chinese tree flowered for the first time in Europe !

There are large numbers of magnolias, bamboos and acers. It holds the national collection of Japanese flowering cherries( this means they have at least 70% of species)

The wonderful handkerchief tree flowers in late spring and is worth a visit just to see that.

The garden has an incredible water feature built in Victorian times a natural stream down the hill with pools and rivulets and waterfalls. It looks so natural it’s amazing. It’s hard to think that teams of cart horses pulled 7 ton blocks of stone to Batsford to build this ‘wild garden’.

Yesterday I walked a circuit of the garden , I was here in spring with blossom and fritillaries and lots of magnolias. The visit in summer was just as wonderful.

This view is sitting at the top of the hill at the start of the water feature a roe deer walked past.

Here is a journey of plants through the Arboretum.

This huge leaved magnolia is yet to flower the leaves are thick and tough they lay under the tree like cardboard.

The light through these tough leaves is fantastic.

As well as the trees there are beautiful areas of planting like these recurved lillies which were about four foot tall.

At the base of the hillside I followed a stream in woodland full of shade with hostas and ferns.

This magnolia below was in flower and looked unreal as if made from sugar paste.

It is called Magnolia colossus. I continued through an area I hadn’t walked before , there were butterflies and bees in sunny areas of bachelors button and foxgloves. This path led to pool and a waterfall .

I love the seed spikes on the magnolias that have finished flowering they look prehistoric.

In the spring Batsford is full of tree blossom , I was not disappointed yesterday. This tree was all flower.

The next tree, a cherry plum was completely covered in fruit.

Further along this path now moving up the hillside one of my favourite trees, the black mulberry,we have a small one of these lovely trees in the garden. I once went mulberry picking with a big group of people on an ancient tree it was fantastic. The mulberries were delicious.

This next tree from China is amazing with long flowers that look like giant catkins.

It’s worth standing right underneath this tree to enjoy the incredible flowers.

From here I walked to the old sheep pool where sheep were cleaned which is now a swamp/ bog garden full of huge leave plants and surrounded by bamboos. Walking along the higher ridge on the hill you can look down onto the Manor House. There are huge pines and conifers , spruces and redwoods. Along the path there are a number of Indian horse chestnuts. The flowered are lovely.

This wollemi pine was in a group of recently planted trees the cones were fabulous.

I was now at the top of the hill looking down across the trees to countryside in the distance. All I could here were the birds.

This is at the start of the stream travelling down the hillside , there was an amazing Cornus shrub which made me want to plant one in the garden!

Walking back down with the waterway on my right it winds and falls with pools visited by thirsty blackbirds. The large pool is full of waterlilies.

As you drop down this path there are flowers either side it is really beautiful .

English Oaks tower over you as you descend .

This feathery white flower was a hit with bees, they were laden with pollen.

As you head back into the visitors centre have a cake, the restaurant is fantastic all home made I had hazelnut with pear and chocolate cake , brilliant.

I haven’t even shown the bamboos and acers there are so many things to see. I have a yearly pass which is £30 I think but great value. It’s £8.95 for adults to visit , definitely worth it. Find out more at batsarb.co.uk. I’ll be back !!

Car park Exploring

I arrived early today at a car park in the Cotswolds. Before heading in for coffee and a pasty I decided to explore the car park !

As you can see the view from the car park is rather nice, looking over back towards Moreton-in-Marsh. The field was full of flowers and grass. A few years ago this was a wheat field and there are still some wheat plants growing in it.

I started to collect grasses as there seemed to be lots of species and without looking too hard I collected 9 . Interestingly the far end of the car park had been mowed in strips and the difference was really clear. The purple tinged grasses created a colourful stripe.

These grasses are full of wildflowers , bees and other insects , the car park was full of wildlife !

I liked the view from the top of the grass looking through the flowers down to the stems.

The edge of the field was colourful with vetches, poppies and more.

Definitely a good car park to wait in , plenty to see and the sun was shining !

Rabbit paradise

I was walking at Batsford Arboretum today . It was beautiful, perfect weather and hardly anyone there. I was on my own, except for this tiny rabbit who was so engrossed in eating didn’t notice me.

The video is about two minutes of rabbit 🐇 eating and is just lovely to watch. Enjoy !

Thistle Top meetings

As you look across a bank of flowers the activity at the top is often very busy, especially in the sun. This was the case on a walk yesterday. The purple thistles were a magnet to all things flying.

The bees and hover flies travelled from one purple platform to another feeding and moving on. There tops of the thistles were rather like invertebrate helipads !

Hover flies seemed able to attach themselves to these purple tops at all angles.

One of my favourite small butterflies the skipper were also visiting the thistles, probing the flowers with their long proboscis.

I love the comings and goings of a small patch of flowers and I might spend some time watching and counting visitors at these thistles on the next sunny day over a half an hour, I think it will be really interesting to stop and watch.

This walk around a lake was also full of birds nesting and their young. The Great Crested Grebes on the lake were swimming with their chicks but these two were still on a nest.

We saw several young coots this one was resting on it’s island nest.

The ducks are busy herding their ducklings , this one had a good number that seemed to follow and move in the right direction !

A flower I really like was in bloom , verbascum ( great mullein) with its tall spikes and downy silver green leaves. Moths love these flowers and it is a great plant for the garden to attract moths.

Some interesting facts about mullein.

  • The stem can be dried and used as a wick dipped in wax or tallow.
  • Rowan ladies used it to dye their hair golden.
  • The soft leaves were used by North American Indians to line their moccasins.
  • Used in herbal medicine in lots of ways.
  • The leaves are arranged in a spiral on the stem.

A short walk packed with interest , I am definitely going down to record the thistle visitors- watch this space !

Heavenly Scent Lime

We have been in France for a few days in super hot weather. Walking around the air was heavily scented, wonderfully perfumed. There were no obvious flowers but on looking up I realised the trees were laden with flowers.

The trees were lime trees with heart shaped leaves and clusters of creamy flowers. There were large numbers of bees throughout the trees.

The small leaved lime ( Tilia Chordata) is similar to the large leaved lime ( Tilia platyphyllos) Lime trees in Britain are often hybrids Tilia x europaea .

The lime tree attracts bees for the nectar the trees also host large numbers of aphids that exude honeydew . If you park a car under a lime it can have sticky honeydew cover it.

Interestingly the small leaves lime was the predominant tree in forests in Britain after the ice age. They are now uncommon and the hybrid limes are common.

The nectar of some limes (silver limes) is thought to be toxic to bees or have a narcotic effect on them. An article from Kew Gardens looks at the chemicals in the nectar and found that silver lime contains high levels of caffeine. Some nectar contains toxins making it only useful to pollinators that are tolerant to it and deterring others. A theory is that bees return to flowers when there is no nectar and become exhausted and die.

Lime tree scent is so sweet that the trees were planted for there therapeutic qualities near hospitals, in rural areas in Europe mothers used to walk under the trees with babies in prams for the perfume.

The wood of the lime tree is pale , flexible and doesn’t splinter.The wood is good for carving and has been used to make piano keys. The tree can be coppiced to produce staves of timber. The sticks of Morris dancers are made from lime. In Europe the flowers of small and large leaves limes were used to make herbal tea.

I will be looking out and sniffing out some lime trees in this warm weather.

English rainforest (back garden)

We have been trying to increase the number of insects in the garden. This year we have put in a pond which is already full of life. The garden although small has 27 different trees and we are developing s definite English rainforest feel with layers of cover. The canopy comes from divided beech, hazel and greengages to list a few. The understory is roses and figs and syringa. The lower layer, foxgloves, ferns, hosta and species geranium. It’s amazing what can grow in a small space!

We have been rewarded with , bees,hoverflies, Holly Blue butterflies and birds galore enjoying the Perches, nest sites and cover. There are nesting sparrows, blackbirds, collared doves, pigeons and blue tits.

This year we have planted an area in the front garden as a mini orchard again with layers underneath of flowers!and fruit.We have tried the wildflower mix that you sprinkle, this seems to have worked and hopefully in a few more weeks will be an insect paradise.

Sitting in this wildlife rich garden is a delight and always interesting. Making changes to gardens, planting a tree, making a pond or sprinkling some wildflower seeds makes a huge difference . Imagine all the gardens from a sparrows eye view below, it would be an incredible patchwork habitat bust with wildlife.