Indian Bean Tree beauty

I love these trees , I have posted about them before at Batsford Arboretum and in the parks in Northampton. They have so many attractive features , large soft light green leaves, beautiful flowers( these are what caught my eye today), long beans hanging down and an overall attractive shape.

The Indian Bean tree comes from North America ( in earlier blog posts I have talked about the traditional uses of the tree)

It has been planted in parks in Britain for all its attractive features. In Regent’s Park there is a large specimen which was in the original planting 180 years ago.

The two trees I stood under today are in the gardens next to the river Dart in Dartmouth. The planting here is global and it is a brilliant little park.

The flowers are huge, horse chestnut like. But more showy .

The ‘beans’ are not beans at all they are long seed pods that stay on the tree all winter. They eventually split and release grey silvery winged seeds.

I love discovering these trees in new places , these two at Dartmouth were brilliant.

Butterfly hedgerows

Walking along the coastal path in Devon today was a butterfly delight. It was hot and we walked next to a hedge which was full of butterflies. There were large numbers of Red Admirals , often in pairs mating.

There were also large numbers of peacock butterflies.

The red admiral below is deep in nectar gathering .

The other butterflies in large numbers were gatekeepers and meadow browns.

This area of the coastal path had a fantastic structure, a day beacon built in 1865.

The coastline here is dramatic.

More exploring tomorrow .

Garden for insects

We have started a completely new area of garden. We removed a wooden structure and cleared everything. What we wanted to do was create an area of garden that produced food for us and habitats for insects.

This project started in April this year . We planted six small Apple trees . Next we added currants and gooseberries.

These are the structure of the area, they produce food, they have flowers and the trees offer perches to birds.

The next planting was perennial flowering plants such as lavenders, species geraniums and oxeye daisies, as well as hollyhocks and tall verbenas.

To increase the food productivity we planted climbing beans edame beans, red kidney beans and also sweet peas.

The last job was to scatter wild flower seed.

The results have been wonderful-

This strip of garden is alive with bees, butterflies, hoverflies and spiders. This morning there were damselflies as well. The sparrows and blackbirds are using the trees.

In just three months the area has been completely transformed.

We have eaten strawberries, redcurrants and gooseberries from this garden and there are courgettes,tomatoes, beans and apples to come.

The variety of plants and flowers and the different levels of plants has created an insect paradise.

This has been a really enjoyable ( and tasty project) we are really pleased with the wild flowers that have just started to flower. We will continue to develop this area and think of other ways to garden for wildlife.

Rushden morning ramble

It was warm and very still at 8.20 this morning . The lake was so clear it was like looking at a book about fish. There were pike of different sizes hanging motionless at the top levels with forests of weed and darting shoals of tiny fish below them.

Further along there were literally thousands of striped perch of all sizes filling the open spaces. While attempting to count this mass of fish I saw a huge carp as it torpedoed out of some weed and then in a quick manoeuvre was gone again.

I am really interested in seeing more fish and photographing them. The illustrations below show the fantastic markings of the perch and the pikes long shape.

This was a lovely morning quiet and warm, the juvenile heron we had seen over the last few days had moved from the wooden jetty to a fallen tree in a smaller lake. This heron is paler than the adults and seems unperturbed by people at the moment.

This is him standing on the big lake jetty where he was at one point mobbed by black headed gills, he saw them off!

This is an unclear photo as I only had my phone but he is happily standing on a semi submerged tree preening and was Not disturbed by us watching for quite a while. As we wandered on we met a wildlife trust ranger who pointed out that there are chicks on the tern rafts. We are going back tomorrow with the binoculars and the big lens, watch this space !

The hover flies were active, I love these papery almost flatted flies as they land and feed .

There were hundreds of them busy in the flowers.

Snails are hidden up trunks , under leaves in this warm weather .

There are plenty of butterflies flying, I noted skippers and speckled woods and managed to take a photo of this lovely gatekeeper.

Not to be disappointed by flowers these two were stunning .

This yellow plant is tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) it was very tall and looked like it belonged in a florists. The tall vetch at the top was tall and strong . This needs further identification , I am going back with a book !

Just at the end of this walk we bumped into a huge bumblebee, so huge it was amazing it could stay in the air !

A great way to start the day !

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 .


The magazine that has developed from 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

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.


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 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 !