Friday, 18 February 2011

On the North Downs


A Walk with Annie

My friend Annie and me took a walk along the North Downs Way. We started in the village of Wye and took the trail through the village up to the Wye Crown, which was built as part of the Millenium Project in 2000. It's a pity that one of the seats has been broken and that some litter had been left strewn about.


From here we followed the trail along the scarp edge to The Devil's Kneading Trough, which is a a deep cut in the scarp face. Just before arriving there I had an encounter with a fox who was trotting up a lane as I came out of the path. He just looked at me bemused before running away back the way he had come.


There is a small cafe at this point and we dropped in for a cup of tea. This area is also a This area is also a National Nature Reserve famous for it's butterflies here. Apparently 20 different species can be seen here. Might be worth another visit in the summer! after continuing along the trail for another hour or so we decided it was time to loop back to Wye.


We descended to the bottom of the scarp through some woods which looked like a good place for bluebells in the late spring and came out on a small lane below. We struggled to find a foot-path to cut across the fields to the small village of Brook. WE found a pub here, the Honest Miller, and popped in for a pint and some lunch. The meal was great, the beer was fine and the warm fire very welcome.


after that it was time to do the final few miles to Wye. This was a bit of a chore as we took a meandering route down a dirt track, then a small lane before the final long stretch through the flat fields to the village. swans were grazing in the fields here but it was cold and windy so we trudged on finally arriving back to the village as it was getting dark.

Friday, 11 February 2011

On the Black Down

I visit Jim and Adriana

From Brighton I caught another coastal train down to Havant, where I changed to go the two stops to Haslemere. I hadn't travelled this stretch of line before and was looking forward to it as it passed through West Sussex. If I'd have paid close attention I would have realised that in fact in leaves the coast pretty soon after Hove and the coast towns are reached by changing onto branch lines, for example to Littlehampton and Bognor Regis. Nevertheless I enjoyed the views as the train skittled along to Chichester. I could at least see the chalk escarpment of the South Downs and dream about doing the South Downs Way someday.


At Haslemere Jim picked me up and we drove back to his place for a pleasant Sunday dinner and chat. It's the first time I've seen them since New Delhi in November 2009.

The following day we got ourselves organised  to go out walking. The day was mild and overcast but at least it wasn't raining. before lunch we went hiking around some high heath lands, some of it marked as the 'Serpent's Trail'. Wee enoyed the up and down trails here and did some bushwacking to stay off some of the sodden tracks.


We lunched at the Duke of Cumberland. Jim was aghast that it had become a gentrified since his last visit. All pubs seem to be 'gastro' these days. Still the lunch was good and the beer was welcome.

After lunch we spent another hour or so walking up Blackdown, the highest point in West Sussex and therefore has splendid views. The link will tell you about the connection with Lord Tennyson and a famous aircrash here as well as the geological and natural history details. I should like to visit these heathlands at the height of summer as they are well known as good dragonfly habitats. I've heard it is possible to see 26 of the 29 UK species hereabouts. May be this August.


Garden Diary

I completed the 2nd Raised Bed today by lining it with the weed fabric. I'm hoping this will protect the wood and make it last a little longer. I should point out that the raised beds I built for my Mother used re-cycled wood which was at least an inch thick. The wood I'm using here is barely a centimetre thick. It wont last nearly as long.

Anyway all I'm waiting for now is a sunny day to put the raised bed out. Of course I'll have to fill it too. Each one has the capacity of 180 litres. So that's 60 each of compost, coir and vermiculite. Unfortunately I can't find local suppliers of the latter two. They still sell peat in the garden shops here, which I'm reluctant to use and vermiculite seems completely off the radar. I suspect that this is because the local soil is sandy and that you don't need it to improve drainage.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

On The South Downs


I visit Fin and Family

On my recent trip to the UK I travelled down to Brighton to visit Fin and Family (though Rose was away at University). As usual these days I took the coastal train route. This meant taking the local train from the village into Canterbury (East), then walking across town to Canterbury West and getting the train up the Stour Valley to Ashford. from here you can get a direct train to Brighton that goes down to Hastings and then along to Eastbourne. At Lewes I changed onto a local train that stopped at London Road (Brighton). This is a very scenic route that cuts across the Romney Marshes before following the coast.


I had a cracking visit. Making sure I got to a few pubs and had a walk with Fin and the dog Pepper, on the South Downs on Saturday and along the beach at Hove on Sunday.

Garden Diary

Today I screwed the 2nd Raised Bed together and planted some more seeds. That's 12 x Sweet Peas (Bijou), 12 x Aubretia (Cascade) and 12 x Osteospernums (Daisy Mae). I also planted 3 x Lilies which are a Deep Red colour.

As the sun was up I photographed the Crocus and Snowdrops. I had a little bit of a tidy up too; including cutting down last years Sedum seed heads.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

2011 I admit it's finally started!


What I've been up to.

OK so Candlemas has come and gone and so has Groundhog Day so I must admit that the New Year has finally started.

I've been away in England for the past three weeks or so. I visited my mother in Kent and then took the coastal train down to Brighton to visit Fin and family and then further down the coast to visit Adriana and Jim near Haslemere.

At my mother's place the idea was to finish off some work in the garden in preparation for spring.Last November I started converting the vegetable beds into raised beds. the idea is make growing vegetables easier to manage for my mother. We'd lose some space but the whole thing should be easier to use. The raised beds would mean smaller plots, new soil and walkways all around to improve access. The idea is that we'd no longer have to walk on the garden and each bed would be accessible all around.


My Dad had left plenty of wood around so this was used to build the beds. - ten in all. Once the beds were made then the paths were laid between them. These were made by putting down weed control sheeting, which were weighed down with sand and concrete stepping paves and then covered with bark chippings. This meant we didn't have to worry too much about getting the paths perfectly level and the whole thing would be softer to walk on and nicer to kneel on when working in the beds.

I had a cubic metre of topsoil, a cubic metre of compost, 6 bags of vermiculite and ten bags of compressed coir delivered. Together with compost from our own bins these were mixed up to fill the beds. The coir is made from the fibrous husks of coconuts and is used instead of peat. the coir and the vermiculite (a mineral) are mixed into the soil to make it lighter and easier to work. No more digging!

I also had a cubic metre of bark chippings delivered for the paths. all in all it was quite a lot of work to wheel-barrow all this stuff from the pallets at the front of the house to the back garden. Thanks Brian for lending me your wheel-barrow!


This is what it looks like now. some of the beds are covered in fleece to warm them up whilst others are covered with ugly wire mesh. This latter is to keep the local cats off the new soil. I've noticed three different cats wandering about and we've invested in a ultra-sonic scared to keep them away. Let's hope it works!

One bed is already planted with garlic and I look forward to starting the planting towards the end of March.

Garden Diary

I bought a heated propagator today ... and promptly planted it with 8xCabbage, 8xBroccoli, 4xCoriander and 8x Sweet Peas (Painted Lady).

Yesterday I bought and cut some wood for a new raised bed and today I  painted the wood with protector.

In the garden I planted the 3 Nerines that my Mother gave me.

In the garden itself the crocus are already flowering and the snowdrops continue. All the other types of bulbs are coming through, both in the garden and around thr fruit trees.

In the first raised-bed the garlic is just starting to show.

I noticed Blue-Tits in the garden today as well as the more usual Great Tits. The Ring-Necked Doves visited later.

All of the trees and shrubs seem to be in bud and the Hazels have catkins. The Honeysuckle by the shed is in blossom too. The Flowering Currants are, as usual, ahead of the rest.