A few weeks ago, after a visit to a garden centre, I came back with this delightful plant – a purple shamrock hebe. I like the colour purple, shamrocks and hebes so what’s not to like? And even better, my garden co-sharers love hebes too.
Who do I share my garden with? Well, a whole host of birds, butterflies, bees, other insects….
So here’s a few facts I have learnt about my new container plant, thanks to the very informative label which came with it.
1. It’s compact and hardy with variegated leaves.
2. It was discovered by Doug Thomson in Ireland. (I imagine that’s where the name ‘shamrock’ comes from). This variety may be from Ireland, but most hebes originally come from New Zealand.
3. In summer, there are occasional blue flowers.
4. In winter, the evergreen foliage turns purple.
5. It likes moist, well-drained soil.
According to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle, the hebe is popular with ‘bees and butterflies seeking nectar’. So a good choice for wildlife-friendly gardens. 🦋🦋🦋
Quite rightly, the world condemned the Brazilian Government for destroying the country’s precious rainforests – home for indigenous people and wildlife alike. It is also a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem, which affects all of us.
The UK Government was among those voicing disapproval.
Most British politicians like to claim to be ‘green’ but, in my view, only when it suits. (I’m sure there will be genuine ones who care about people, animals and the environment but I can’t think of any, please let me know if you do).
There is much talk of climate change but what’s the point of discussing this topic if trees keep getting replaced with concrete?
I do think investment in public transport is a fantastic thing. We need fewer cars on the road but if there isn’t a viable alternative, why would people give up their vehicles?
So, when I first heard of of the HS2 project, it sounded a good idea. Investment in our train service? I’m all for that… Good for people, good for the environment…
The HS2 – which could cost £85 billion, £30 billion over budget – is supposed to make the train journey from London to the North of England quicker.
But it will be at a cost of 34 ancient woods, 56 hectares, along the London to Birmingham leg of the route. And that’s just the start of the destruction…. It’s thought more than 100 of these woods are under threat in total.
The contractors are due to start felling the trees next month, even though a spending review is underway and this expensive project may not even go ahead.
According to the Woodland Trust, if the woodland destruction goes ahead, this will wipe out all the barn owls ‘breeding within a mile of the new line, either by destroying their habitat or collisions with trains’. That’s more than 100 owls, ‘an estimated one per cent of the UK population’.
Another rare species is Bechstein’s Bat, which roosts ‘among the remnants of the medieval forest of Bernwood, now under threat’.
The intelligent thing to do would be to use the money to improve the existing railway and make public transport in general more affordable and reliable.
But I sometimes wonder about the intelligence of those running the country and unfortunately, while Brexit distracts the electorate, billions of pounds will be wasted and a vital habitat will be vandalised.
And for what? A slightly quicker journey to London?
So maybe it isn’t just the Brazilian Government which is guilty of environmental vandalism and crimes against precious forests…
Two years ago, I started Dreams and Adventures at Cosy Cottage. It started off as a garden and chicken diary and has become a diary of some of my life’s experiences (including chickens and gardens!), an outlet to voice opinion on issues which matter to me (nature mostly) and a way to motivate myself to write and get fit. I love learning – whether it’s about plants or historic places – and writing it all down helps me remember.
I’ve also virtually met many bloggers who have supported me via likes, comments and follows – and an enjoyable read of their own blogs. The variety out there is wonderful, thank you for the support and great reading!
So, to mark my second blogging anniversary, I’ve set up a page on my blog called Your Favourite Blogs. Here, you can include a link/s of your favourite posts or of the blog itself. If you want, you can even promote one of your favourite bloggers. For every link, I’ll donate a pound to Butterfly Conservation, a British nature charity which aims to protect butterflies and the natural spaces they live in. (Read about them here https://butterfly-conservation.org/ )
Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes, near Louth in Lincolnshire, is a very peaceful seaside spot. Instead of sandcastles, ice cream and sunbathers, there are mudflats and ponds, salt marshes, wildflowers and sand dunes.
Natural England manages the 556-hectare National Nature Reserve section, while Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust manages the remainder of the area.
When we first entered the reserve, we walked along a path through wildflower-rich grassland, encountering ponds en route. This walkway took us to the dunes and saltmarsh.
It is an important site for wildlife. We didn’t see any Natterjack toads but did come across many insects, including grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies.
By holding out a stragically placed stick, Simon rescued a struggling dragonfly who was in danger of drowning in one of the ponds.
We also came across two discarded dragonfly larval cases – they weren’t dead, they were skins of two nymphs (juvenile). Once the juvenile is ready to become an adult, they cast off their old skin. They are well prepared for this life-changing event, with a new skin underneath.
As well as nature’s dramas, the remnants of military history can be found on this reserve, in particular the beach… Today we can still see a corroded Comet tank and a ruined pillbox, dating from the Second World War.
The Air Ministry bought the site in the 1930s and old vehicles, that had been driven onto the beach, were used as targets. The dunes were mined and pillbox built during the Second World War as an anti-invasion defence.
Being here reveals how the landscape changes over time. It is thought that the dunes began forming in the 1200s after large storms blew sand and shingle and, even now, the tides and wind is changing the landscape slowly but surely. New saltmarsh and dunes are still being created today and Simon told me he saw a difference from the last time he was there.
At certain times of the year, seals can be found with their pups along the coast. The adult seals don’t look as cute as you might think, being big and clumsy and even a little violent with each other (the males at least). The babies are very cute but, of course, it is advisable not to go near and disturb them.
In July though, there are no seals but we did come across this poignant sight… A seal’s skull.
It is a lovely quiet area, I even came across a comment on an internet beach forum saying it was an ideal place to go for a naked walk and skinny dipping!
When one thinks of rural Scotland, the Munros and the Highlands, the islands and the lochs may all spring to mind, but there is beautiful countryside nearer to England.
And if the gentle farming countryside – complete with romantic medieval castle – isn’t all that far from the bright lights of Edinburgh, so much the better for those who want ‘the best of two worlds’.
The Stair Arms Hotel, just outside Pathhead, in Midlothian, is one such location. The Victorian coaching inn dates from 1831 and was commissioned by Lord and Lady Stair – hence the name. It is very handy for those of us who live in England. Pathhead village, a conservation area, is located a mere 12 miles south of Edinburgh.
We came by train for a one-night stay. Our relatives lived nearby so it was a useful stop-over. From Preston, the trains to Edinburgh go frequently and from there it was a train to Eskbank and a taxi ride on to the hotel.
There is also an hourly bus from Edinburgh to Pathhead.
If you go by car, then it is easily found on the A68, a main road which takes you from the North East of England to Edinburgh.
There are 12 rooms in all, with a family room and two suites.
Our twin room was elegantly and smartly furnished with a calming grey shade.
It was clean and had everything you would expect from a hotel room – tea, coffee, TV and so on. The bathroom, in the same style as the bedroom, was roomy with all the facilities needed.
After our train journey, we were famished so it was pleasing to hear we could choose our time to dine in the restaurant. We decided on 6pm, a good choice considering how ready we were to eat.
The comfortable and recently refurbished restaurant boasts a roaring log fire in winter. There is also a cafe area with a range of home baking.
The menu offers an ample selection of locally sourced dishes, some with a distinctive Scottish flavour such as Cullen skink, Lady Stair – bread of chicken stuffed with haggis – and haggis fritters.
We were given a tasty pre-starter of warm bread and dips. Mum chose scotch broth for her starter and I opted for a Cullen skink. This dish was made with potato, cream and smoked haddock. I hadn’t heard of this creamy soup-like starter before but it was delicious.
Haddock and chips and a steak and ale pie were our main courses. They were big meals, scrumptious, but we were both very full by the end. Too full for a dessert unfortunately.
The following day, breakfast was a choice of cereals and then a waitress took our orders, there was a good choice but after our large evening meals, poached egg on toast seemed a fairly light option.
Crichton Castle is the nearest tourist attraction to the hotel and is within walking distance.
Handily, after checking-out, we were able to leave our luggage behind at the hotel for this walk.
The route to the medieval landmark is along a country road and, according to the sign, it is two miles from Pathhead.
The castle, which overlooks the Tyne Valley, is certainly worth a visit. It is both historical, as all castles are, and very unusual.
Architecturally, the castle has a number of notable points. The courtyard, when remodelled in the 1580s, was inspired by Italian buildings and is decorated with diamond-shaped stonework. It is very Mediterranean looking and unique for a Scottish castle.
The first known scale-and-platt stair (straight staircase) in Scotland is also found here, again dating from the 1500s. Up to this point, castles had spiral staircases.
Historically, the castle was begun in the late 1300s/1400s and was first lived in by the Crichton family, later passing to the Hepburn earls of Bothwell.
Mary Queen of Scots celebrated her brother’s wedding at Crichton in 1562. Five years later, she married the castle’s owner.
The castle has also found fame within the lines of the poem Marmion, by Sir Walter Scott.
The nearby church was founded by William Crichton in 1449.
After our morning of medieval time-travelling, we ventured back to the Stair Arms where we had lunch – fishcake and haddock goujons and a lovely big pot of tea. Haddock appears a popular option here!
The Stair Arms is a small family-run hotel, run by the Ramsay family for the past 25 years. We found the service warm and helpful.
The hotel also has two function rooms and caters for weddings.
One of the function rooms opens out to a picturesque garden – perfect for wedding photos.
But if you’re just looking for a place to stay while exploring the attractions of Edinburgh and the wider Midlothian area – including the Pentland Hills, Vogrie Country Park and Rossyln Chapel – the Stair Arms is a very handy and comfortable place to stay.
There is a place near Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, called Thoresby Park, which includes the Victorian Thoresby Hall Hotel, a craft centre and pleasant riverside surroundings to meander around.
It was along this river that Simon spotted a tree with unusual residents – honey bees.
I tend to associate honey bees with bee keepers, who keep them in hives and collect honey. If I had the time and a bigger garden, it is something I would like to do. There are bee keeping courses but is there a point if, at the moment, it is just a little ‘Good Life’ daydream?
Now wild honey bees is something I hadn’t come across before and for some reason, when I saw these bees I thought of Winnie-the-Pooh and his love of the sweet stuff. Wasn’t there a story of him ‘stealing’ honey from wild bees?
Even where I was standing, I could feel one in my hair. Not a nice sensation (!) but I edged away carefully and thankfully the bee realised I was no threat and flew away.
From Larousse’s Pocket Guide Wildlife of Britain and Europe, it says: ‘Most honey bees live in artificial hives, but wild colonies live in hollow trees and similar places’.
The Woodland Trust adds that the honeybees have been domesticated for centuries and, although they are commonly found feeding on flowers, ‘ it is rare to find a truly wild colony’.