Bean tree beauty

I love Indian bean trees , I am always pleased to see one . Yesterday after a short walk from Baker Street underground station I came across a fantastic specimen.

Feeling very lucky I found two trees last week in a garden centre reduced from £60 to £5.49 . I have one and my Mum has one. We are both looking forward to when they spread their branches , flower and produce their beans !

These are the heart shaped leave of the young tree in my garden glossed up by the rain.

The Indian bean tree ( Catalpa bignonoides) originates from North America. This is the southern bean tree from Alabama, Georgia,Louisiana and Florida. The Northern bean tree (Catalpa speciosa) originates from the mid west. Here are some bean tree facts:

  • Heartwood of catalpa was used in the manufacture of railroad ties in the past. Today, catalpa is used for the manufacture of fence posts, beams, furniture and millwork in North America.
  • Catalpa is also known as cigarette tree.
  • Catalpa is sometimes used as tonewood in guitars.
  • It is planted to stabilise soil as it has an extensive root system.
  • The roots are poisonous.

This tree is always a delight, great leaves, beautiful flowers and interesting seed pods. I am going to collect some seeds next time I see one and try and germinate them.

Rain and more rain

It has felt unusual to put on my waterproof, I can’t remember the last time it had a trip out!

Some of the rain over the last few days has been spectacular, noisy and refreshing. The garden has a new lease of life and has re-greened at the end of it’s growing year.

The spiders webs were hung with jewels and weighed down by these water gems.

In the garden berries became elongated and varnished with the downpours , making them shine and catch the eye.

The fig tree seemed to soak up the moisture and it perked up the olives.

The olive tree is covered in a huge crop this year but alas we don’t get enough sun for them to ripen.

Water sits on the surface of leaves and plants in different ways, the waxy or sometimes hairy stem and leaf surfaces hold the water in droplets.

This spider web was attached to the gutter by the front door, amazingly it was stabilised by two long silk threads rather like guy ropes which were about three metres long. They are amazing engineers, the rain certainly doesn’t stop play for them.

Robin encounter

I had an up close and personal encounter yesterday with a robin.

As I was sat having a cup of coffee the robin came to investigate what I was doing( hoping I expect for some crumbs)

I only had coffee but the bird remained for five minutes gradually closing in. I think if I had offered crumbs it would have happily hopped on my hand.

The average lifespan of the robin is only 13 months , if they survive past this they can live a lot longer.

Robins hold a special place , they seem so tame especially when digging in the garden or as yesterday when there may be some crumbs in offer. Their song is often the first heard in the morning and late in the afternoon. It is easy to imagine that these friendly birds as characters , I loved the blackberry farm series as a child and postman Joe was a robin who I loved!

Magazine stories

I have had a great two weeks promoting Issue 1 of Explorations the magazine of Nature Table Explorer.Firstly through a talk to the inner wheel which was really enjoyable . The second event was a stand at a local Waitrose which helped to make lots of connections and give me new ideas. I was helped on this stand by two enthusiastic friends who were great.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Explorations it is available via PayPal at for £5.20 which includes postage in the UK,email for charges further afield .

I am gathering articles for issue 2 at the moment and I am always looking for articles, photos or ideas. Please send any of these to

In Issue 2 there will be a new feature of a readers page for letters, questions and finds. Please become part of the project, spread the word about our wonderful world and remember ….EXPLORE MORE !

A sneak peek of Issue two in its early stages

Caving wasps

We had a walk followed by an ice cream today at a super garden nursery that specialises in olive trees called the Olive Grove near Barnwell Northants. It is a great place to visit.

They have some lovely apple trees which were loaded with fantastic crops.

The wasps had taken advantage and had formed an ‘apple cave ‘ with in and out doorways. They were feasting on the sweet pulp. We could actually here them eating.

There were several wasps inside coming and going through the front and back doors they had created.

It was a fascinating activity to spend time watching.

September change

There is a different feel in the air this morning as September arrives. A walk early had a chill . The plants and trees are finished with their growth and seeds are set .

The pinks of willow herb and faded thistles alongside white trumpets of bindweed are the main flowers left.

Damselflies were still flitting about in the undergrowth around the lake edges.

Butterflies are flying , red admirals are still in high numbers and large whites .

The flies were emerald like in the sun.

There is a constant noise of grasshoppers and crickets but they were too well hidden.

Looking forward to Autumn as the season moves on .

Great Egret and Heron

We are learning how to film using a smart phone through a spotter scope. It is amazing watching birds from across a lake , they just go about their business . It’s wonderful.

The first film is a great Egret at Summer Leys near Wellingborough in a breeze.

I had watched this beautiful bird walk through the shallows and do a spot of fishing before it sat in this flowery bank to preen.

It wasn’t alone in this flowery area, there were plenty of geese .

There were also lots of lapwings ,these are a favourite of mine. Summer Leys reserve is interesting with a number of habitats to explore.

Today at Rushden Lakes not far from Summer Leys we filmed a heron . From the lake shore it was only just visible , through the spotter scope we could watch it’s leg stretching antics with ease.

With practice the spotter scope will open up new finds.

Norfolk finds

We did not find many fossils on this trip but there were plenty of things to see. The flints alone are varied interesting and at times bizarre.

We were hoping to find mammoth teeth and deer antlers as well as sea urchins . A trip after winter storms is needed to have some wow finds I think.

Here are the tables – West Runton

And East Runton

We had some fun imagining that this interesting stone was actually a fossilised turtle head , always good to keep the imagination going !

The colours on these beaches were amazing either in the flints or the decaying bolts and sea defences.

Strumpshaw Fen Exploring

Close to Norwich , Strumpshaw Fen is an area definitely worth exploring. It is an RSPB reserve and has lots to see.

There are marked trails,woodland,meadow and fen with a wide variety of habitats. There is obviously plenty of open water again varied, large pools and lakes surrounded by reeds, small ditches and ponds and the river Yare runs along one side.

We went today in hope of glimpsing a swallowtail butterfly knowing it was late in the year. We were rewarded with one sighting but it was too quick to photograph. We only had the phone with us.There were plenty if other butterflies especially red admirals and painted ladies. It was sunny and they were enjoying the nectar in the buddleias.

We had a number of lovely encounters on this fenland walk . We saw a tiny lizard, the man at reception told us that on the sandy walk which was marked on the useful map we were given , on a sunny day up to sixteen lizards had been seen sunning themselves together. He recommended June for the swallowtails and mentioned that they had been all over the wild flower garden at the reserve entrance. We also enjoyed watching a perfect swan rest in a tiny watery inlet.

There are fantastic birds to be seen at this reserve and we will definitely be back with the proper kit to photograph them. We climbed up into the tower hide and watched a great egret and numerous herons on a large area of open water.

Dragonflies and damselflies were everywhere, there were some very large dragonflies , earlier in the year I’m sure there would have been huge numbers . Another reason to visit again !

Walking with the River Yare on our right it was amazing to see trees laden with apples, crab apples, hazel nuts, elderberries , rowan berries as well as blackberries and wonderful hops everywhere climbing through bushes and up trees . It was a wild larder.

A walk on the boardwalk gave us a great experience of the fen and the reeds.

This was a fascinating area to explore and one to come back to at different times of the year and equipped with a great camera .

Fossil Hunting in Norfolk

A day of fossil hunting, on the look out for mammoth teeth and deer antlers as well as Sea urchins and other treasures. Alas we did not find these but had a fantastic time exploring West Runton and East Runton.

We did find some fossils, belemnites , shells and sponges along with some fantastic ‘lucky stones’! The flints on the beaches are wonderful and in the rock pools home to winkles and limpets.

At West Runton we swam in the sea which was clear , our only company were the young gulls and the cormorants sitting in a stone bank.

The cliffs are very soft and in East Runton the chalk can be seen but unfortunately no mammoth teeth.

Cromer is just up the coast with it’s Victorian pier which can be seen stretching out into the sea. There are rows of wind turbines far out to sea. Huge container ships were travelling in front of the white sails of the turbines.

Cromer is famous for its crab, we discovered lots of hermit crabs in the rock pools and plenty of crab evidence along the beach.A brilliant day exploring more !