Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Blimey - it's been a long time since the last entry.
I think it is time my blog had an up-date in more ways than one. So that's what I'll do shortly...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Summer & Irises

Where has the time flown to....

Finally things have quietened down and my mind has space to think of new things, irises for example. When I was young we had a sunny corner of the garden full of tall blue irises, I loved them. Then one day they were gone. For a reason still unknow to me this very day, my dad removed them & threw them away - what a waste if only he had realized how much they were worth! When I was a student I came upon a display of irises in a botanic garden and was amazed to discover that blue was not their only colour - in fact they were named after iris - the goddess of the rainbow - what a wonderful discovery. Plus they come in a whole range of sizes & live in all trypes of environment - an iris for every place ! Now that I have the space, I shall create my own rainbow-bed/s out of the wildness at our Ruins. A summer centre piece in the baking sunshine they so love, a patch by the pond, a stand of spring beauties under the trees.... It will take several seasons to get the soil right but it will be worth the wait. In the meantime I'll pour over the catalogues, watch out for iris-related articles & plan & dream the beds into existence.

We have had scarcely more than a sprinkling of rain in 2 months now but around here, May seems greener & lusher than ever. The only hints that all is not as it should be are the leafless ash trees. I passed a large parkland the other day and was amazed at the exuberance of the mature trees, especially those in blossom. I guess anything with deep roots, that hasn't been killed by the harsh winter, is tapping into abundant ground water. It's not good for shallow-rooted plants & seedlings so I'm longing for a long period of gentle rain to soak into the dry ground & gently percolate down through the layers, safely & calmly topping up the underground reserves.

(photos - sissinghurst irises - Batik)

Monday, 21 March 2011

spring is officially here

It's now officially spring & today I saw trees in full blossom - a truely uplifting sight. I'm really looking forward to our standard hawthorns coming into flower.

Last night I watched frogs swimmming about a pond by torch-light accompanied by croaks & chirrups. I had not heard either sound until I moved here & now, every time I hear them I think how diminshed my world would be without those sounds. For sometime now the big dog & myself have been on frog/toad patrol as part of our nightly walk. I have perfected a scooping technique for getting the small creatures into a bucket from the road. They go into the nearest of 3 ponds - I'm guessing that is where they were headed.

I'm sure I read somewhere that the Spring Equinox is a time when the fairy folk move between homes. Yesterday I moved my horse to what will hopefully be her final home. It marks a major change for her & us & is one I am still unsure about. I had always envisenged her living in a large herd in a large field - out 24hrs a day all year round. That has happened but, every home move has taken her further & further away from what I see as an ideal. I can only conclude that for this horse, that ideal is not ideal! As I get older I am more & more convinced that it does not do to have too set an idea about the optimum of anything - options, continums and change seem to be more realistic. Time will tell if the current living arrangements for my beloved horse are working well - if not - more change!

Change continues at the church site - more of an evolution really. As we spend increasing amounts of time there and read more about these sorts of ancient sites, the way forward slowly unfolds. Sometimes the next step is small e.g. planting a particular tree in a particular place, to revolutionary e.g. the plans for turning the ruins or part of them into a home. It is a steep learning curve full of ironies. I have never been partcularly interested in building as homes or in owning land or property. And yet I am becoming part of the history of a complex building on an even more complex plot of land that requires extensive knowledge of obscure and/or specialist legislation to work on & with. Life can indeed takes some strange turns.

It is the empty part of the year for our garden produce and I have been forced into buying veggies. Sadly it is true - home grown food does taste so much better than mass produced stuff. Roll on a productive garden.

Monday, 21 February 2011


Every now and again I come across a book or author that is truly fabulous. Usually it has been a book or author in print for ages & often other people have had the same feelings. At the moment it is two works by the Irish writer John O'Donohue (1956-2008). Genius.

I am also really enjoying a totally different type of read - fiction by Julia Stuart. I picked it up from the mobile library on an impulse - attracted by the unusual title "Balthazar Jones & the Tower of London Zoo". Its intriguing subject matter & characters are keeping me up late & I've even skimmed the end few pages - a sure sign of a good read. Without giving much away - I'm sure I've learnt almost all my history from well written & researched novels.

It's that time of year in the gardening calender which is very frustrating. The urge to get out there & "do something" in the fresh air & with the soil grows in direct relationship to day length. Unfortunately the weather does not always slip neatly into the equation. That one glorious day we've had since November saw me out there in the sunshine doing stuff! The cane fruits got planted & a bonfire made & today - well it's raining again!

Not much you can do about rain except to live with it & catch it in butts for the later dry (!!) part of the year. So we've been out visiting, it's been very instructive. Working & visiting our church site regularly it is easy to over-look just how much we have changed it. We visited 2 ancient & beautiful small churches in the region & went on to visit ours - what a contrast. I was struck by how very much alive our place felt - even on a gloomy February day. The vibrant energy of growth & living seemed to permeate the site. In contrast the small C12th church on the hill top was beautifully maintained with some magnificent & nationally important features but it felt dark & sad & heavy. The larger church, also beautifully maintained & clearly well used felt even heavier & more somber - despite the stunning display of purple crocus & magnificent hornbeams next door. Perhaps it is the on-going burials & grieving relations that contribute to the heaviness or the preponderance of evergreens in the church yard? We have had a policy of planting no big evergreens at our site - just deciduous trees - letting in as much light & circulating air as possible - perhaps too much as the bird-hide blew down as did a dead tree in the recent strong winds! I've plans for some wind-break trees.

In-my-bones I feel we are set for a very mediocre summer with a wonderful autumn & have been choosing vegetables & plants accordingly. This year I ordered the new varieties of blight-resistant potato - Sarpo. I was feeling pretty pleased with this choice until I discovered that they are a GM plant - not sure how I feel about them now: though they are GM within potato varieties. As for tomatoes & cucumbers - I'll be trying them in containers protected from the rain . The big experiments this year are celery ( I sorely missed it all last year), melons & Hamburg parsnip/parsley. I am not sure why I have a hankering to grow melons as I don't particularly like the fruit - it's probably for the same reasons I like pumpkins & marrows - they are massively attractive to grow!

Following last fortnight's hectic activity, this week has been a very quiet administrative week regarding the site - I wonder what next week/month will bring!



Tuesday, 1 February 2011


The last few days have been filled with trees.

Firstly the big national issue of "selling off our forests" Madness. I participated in the campaign against this being organized by "38 Degrees" - "Save Our Forests". Just follow the link & send an e-mail to your MP: http://38degress.org.uk/

The temperature outside has increased a bit, the ground thawed in most places, so I've been able to plant a few saplings. In a range of temporary pots I have a mix of saplings that I've grown from nuts or cuttings all patiently waiting to get established in a permanent home. I have put a fair number in the sparse hedgerow around the vegetable garden at the church. That part of the hedge is very odd - consisting of huge coppiced hazels -perhaps it is the remnant of a coppice wood? Not far from them are thickets of nutling that I'm guessing reveal the buried horded left by squirrels & jays. In amongst my saplings I was very excited to find a blackthorn, I have no recollection of planting that at all! I've put it where others are growing as they seem very healthy trees - no mean feat in a part of the garden that is known to flood. I'm very undecided as to where to plant the silver birch I acquired free, worried about planting out the horse chestnut as they seem to be prey to nasty diseases at the moment, and have several willows to find space for though far enough away from the buildings to not cause for problems. The ash saplings I know where to plant but worry about their safety - so many decisions - though I strongly believe "listen & the answer will come".

The lane leading from the main road to the church is special place - lined on either side by old trees. Each side is different, one a traditional mix of local trees the other, mainly coppiced hazel. Later on this month CPRE is coming to survey it, I am eagerly awaiting the findings. I'm guessing that one side is possibly 400 years old & the other perhaps 200 years old. More on this topic later. (CPRE - Campaign to Protect Rural England).

Opposite the church is footpath that until today I have had no real cause (or time) to investigate. Due to a minor car accident & no mobile phone (two at home!) I walked the footpath up to the farm it leads to in search of a phone: thanks to the lady who let me use her to call the tow truck). This footpath passed through a newly planted wood (approx 10 years of ash & oak) & came out by an off shoot of the Frome & here were some magnificent pollarded willows. The trees must have been at least 4 arm widths in circumference and stood with their feet in water. I wonder how many more there must have been up & down the Frome - ow there just seem to be youngish Alders - where have all the willow gone? We I'm going to make it a mission to plant more willows - one of my all time favourite trees - all types. According to my newly acquired "The Biodynamic Sowing & Planting Calendar 2011" there are a number of "best days"for taking willow cuttings this month - though they should not be planted til March. I'm going to be busy. For a while now I've envisaged a living willow bower - maybe this is the year I'll start it.

I have just acquired an anthology of tree poems from the library "Trees Be Company" - part of the Common Ground library of publications. One has taken my immediate fancy

I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree,

Poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree

Alfred (Joyce) Kilmer

And finally, I keep dropping hints to Mr PoppyM that I'd like a tree for my up & coming "significant birthday" - I wonder if I'll get one??

picture - Vincent Van Gogh - Pollarded Willows & Setting Sun 1888


Friday, 7 January 2011

Thoughts for the start of 2011

I notice that a number of my friends have arrived at some wonderful intentions for the New Year, which has set me thinking about finding some to. But I must confess to not being in quite the right frame of mind to do this yet - too many things carried over from 2010. The time will come - soon no doubt & I too will have list of things for 2011.

Until then I resolve to write to everyone who sent me a Christmas card - a new year Thank You & Best Wishes. To neatly put away the decorations for use next Christmas season. To sort through 3 boxes of misc paper/cards/articles/seed catalogues etc.

Two new things for 2011 have already settled themselves - 4 geese & a cockeral to be accommodated (my Christmas present) and a strawbale shelter at the church site to be built. The latter is a break-through as Mr PoppyM is very traditional but this option, in theory, should not upset any Planners or Heritage Depts! (picture from CAT).

I'm looking forward to the arrival of the bean seeds I've ordered - all part of my plan to improve the garden soil at the site, which I think is a little low in nitrogen.

The Environmenty Agency's site is full of valuable information & from it I've learnt that part of the church site is officially prone to flood - no real surprise as the adjacent field is a water-meadow. But it's good to see the formal extent of the flood area and it does explain why water dowsing at the site is a rather odd experience!
So onwards into the second week of January 2011 eagerly awaiting the books I've ordered from the Mobile Library - mainly from the Common Ground website ( http://www.commonground.org.uk/) - well worth a visit.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Things to do in 2011 - busy busy

Christmas has come & gone. The rain is washing away the snow & ice. 2011 is here. Time to take stock & plan for the coming months & years.
The church project has reached another very busy phase that I anticipate continuing into the next 6 months or so:
* An action with the Local Goverment Ombudsman re: the appalling behaviour of a local Councillor.
* Continuing clarification of our Rights of Way (hopefully avoiding the need for recourse to the law).
* Continuing clarifiation of boundary issues (ditto).
* Management of the English Heritage Grant & resolution of issue with the scaffolders (ditto).
* Establishing a "hut" to drink tea in (no mean achievement on a Scheduled & Listed site).
* and of course - the REALLY important, hands-on work on the site itself! Tree planting, hedge & wall repairing, setting-up the wildlife zones, general tidying up & getting ready for work on the monument itself.
I joked to Mr PoppyM that we should try & resolve all these issues by 2012 as I dont want to have to deal with these and, the impending revelation of the truth about aliens Aliens & big domestic dramas in one year is just TOO MUCH!
Then there are new pieces of legislation to keep track of:
* Draft Bill on Easements & Covenants - matters very relevant to our ownership of an ex-church property.
* Changes to the Listing & Scheduling of monuments.
* Changes to Planning Rules nationally & locally.
* Changes within the Land Registry
Moral - Owning an ancient monument is not an easy option!
One task I am really looking forward to, is getting the boundary hedges along the lane leading to the church surveyed & dated. I'm hoping that Herefordshire CPRE can help here. I am sure the hedges are hundreds of year old.
Happy 2011 to one and all. May you encounter kindnesses & fairness in your daily lifes and end the year in high spirits ready for 2012.
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