Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.

Posted in Environment, Nature

Rewild Yourself – a book of ‘nature spells’

Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes

When I was a child I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and, for a while after, I was convinced that one day, just one day, I may just pop into a magic wardrobe in MFI, or some other furniture store, and enter a magical world. (The wardrobes at home were disappointing to say the least). Unfortunately I never found this elusive wardrobe, or indeed Narnia. (I never found a way to visit the Care Bears’ Care-a-Lot either, childhood is full of disappointments!)

But a different sort of ‘magic’ truly exists, one that inspires us, thrills us, motivates us, makes us feel happy… Sometimes some of its ‘magical creatures’ may appear to be invisible as unicorns and when we eventually glimpse one of these ‘fantastic beasts’, it feels like a magical experience. So what is this wonder that heals our spirits and minds, that makes us smile?

It’s nature.

Recently, I bought a copy of Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes. Using the allegory of magic and the inspiration of fantasy stories, Simon Barnes explains in 23 chapters (or ‘spells’) how to make nature more visible. It’s a brilliant, easy to read, accessible book that would be perfect for those just getting into nature and inspiring for the well-established nature lovers. Each chapter feels magical – ‘We can make a magical transition from one kind of place to a completely different kind of place and do so, if not instantaneously, then certainly within astonishingly few minutes’.

And then there’s ‘so you can enter another country – the wild country – not through a wardrobe but by means of a Magic Tree. Enter, then, with joy. And after that, you can turn your mind to another spell’.

Tips on how to enter a new world…

Yet along with this magical feel, thanks to Simon Barnes’ eloquent prose, each chapter has a handy practical – and often simple – hint to attract or discover wildlife. Do you have a pair of ‘magic trousers’ or have a ‘magic tree ‘ that attracts butterflies into the garden?

So while as an adult I know there’s little chance of finding a wondrous world at the back of my wardrobe, my garden on the other hand ….

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Creating a Wildlife Pond

The new pond

Last autumn, Simon dug a pond in the newly cleared decking area of the garden.

The old pond, a large black container which was placed in the hens’ garden, had been dug out a few months prior. It was too deep, in an area which was sheltered with overhanging trees, hard to access or even see because of surrounding shrubs, and, perhaps worse of all, the chickens kept insisting on drinking from it!

The water had turned stagnant and smelt dreadful and I do not know what happened to the pond plants I had put in there a few years ago. The cobbles I had once delicately placed around had gradually slipped in over the last two years and there were no life forms living in or around this hostile environment.

So we took the large tub out, dug compost over the hole and relocated the pond – this time using a small (albeit heavy) sink. Duckweed and water plantain were planted in the pond and cobbles decorated the edges. It was all set and ready for wildlife to visit. In fact, a mere five minutes or so after completion, a little robin arrived and perched at the side of the pond as if giving his approval.

The old pond in the chickens’ garden, guarded by Florence

Pond Facts

1. Wildlife loves ponds, whether it’s as a habitat or watering hole. In fact, I’ve heard that one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden is to dig a pond. For example, frogs are dependent on garden ponds as they need water to breed.

2. My first pond was in an awkward place, not helped by overhanging trees. Christine and Michael Lavelle suggest trying ‘to avoid a site that is shared by trees because they will not only cut out light, but their leaves will drop into the water, enriching it with mineral nutrients.’ This attracts algae in the warmer months.

3. There are three types of plants for ponds – oxygenator (for oxygen), deep-water aquatics (shades water from too much sunlight), and marginal/emergent plants (offers shade and cover for animals at the edge of pond. They are also used by dragonflies and nymphs to ‘crawl out’ and pupate).

Information taken from The Illustrated Practical Guide to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle.
Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Covid litterbugs

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It’s 2020 and for many, the world has changed – and yet some things, some people, remain the same.

There have always been humans who throw their litter on the ground, heedless of the fact a bin is just around the corner.

Is it stupidity, for not knowing how to use a bin? Is it arrogance and rudeness? Maybe both?

But my earlier hopes that this pandemic would inspire people to have more awareness and respect for the environment was expecting too much from some members of the human species, it seems.

Now these litter bugs have a new item to discard – used face masks.

Why put it in a bin when you can leave these single use plastic items, covered by germs (maybe of the virus itself), on the ground for wildlife to harm themselves by eating, a child to stumble upon, or a cleaner to have to pick up?

Face mask litter

There are many mysteries in the world and the logic that goes on in the minds of these Covid litterbugs is just one.

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Reblog, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: Our Beautiful Planet

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Back in 2017, not long after I started blogging, I wrote this. It felt relevant to me at the time. It feels even more so now. It seems as if we live in an increasingly polarised and divisive world. It’s Them versus Us. Us versus Them. Who ‘they’ are and who ‘we’ are varies, depending on the individual and their world view. But one thing seems true to me, we are heading further and further away from each other. We stay within our echo chambers and put our hands on our ears so we cannot listen to the other side of the debate or other people’s experiences. We revert back to primary school and call each other insults rather than listen. Personally, I don’t think anything will be solved with this attitude. We need to work together on issues of poverty, discrimination, persecution, homelessness, prejudice, violence, conflict etc. We need to look after each other, especially the more vulnerable. We need to be able to co-exist with other species in harmony and respect their natural habitat. We need to care about our planet.

Often at Cosy Cottage, I watch the blue and great tits fluttering over to the bird feeder to nibble fat ball snacks. (Yes, Cosy Cottage also operates as a café for my feathered chums).

And while I do, I brood upon the state of the world.

Is it me or do labels divide us?

Who are you? Are you male, female, transgender, intersex, gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, brown, mixed race, Christian, Catholic, CofE, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, Tory, Labour, Lib Democrats, Green, Remainer, Leaver, poor, rich, comfortable, British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, American …?

And so on… And so on…

Of course, we are this and that, that and the other. I am some of these descriptions too. Of course I am. They form part of each and everyone’s identity and certainly I am proud of my Celtic heritage.

But what if we focus on these labels to such an extent that other issues are forgotten?

Like the planet. Endangered species. Pollution.

Would things be better if, instead of thinking of ourselves and each other in terms of our gender/race/sexuality/religion (etc etc) identities as our first concern, we look at each other primarily as

1. Humans.

2. Humans who live on a beautiful planet – which we really should start looking after as it is our home!

3. Humans who share our home (planet) with our fellow beings (other species) who have just the same right to live here as we do.

For any religious readers, I do believe that, if there is a God, He would want us to look after the planet given to us … And care for each other, humans and animals.

And for non-religious readers, even without a God, why would we want to mess up the home we all live in? Why arrogantly assume we are the only species which matters? Or leave our planet in a polluted, disease-ridden, barren state for the next generation?

Facts of the Day

1. Elephants face serious threats including illegal killing for ivory and habitat destruction. In 1900, there were 10 million elephants. In 2014, there were only 420,000. (www.bornfree.org.uk)

2. It takes plastic 400 years to degrade in water.

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3. Chemicals such as pesticides, found in polluted water, can contaminate food chains through affected marine life. This can lead to nervous system damage, hormonal problems amongst others. (www.plasticoceans.org)

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Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: Coronavirus

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Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

One of the things which is helping me through this strange time is nature. Watching the starlings frolicking about on the lawn and great tits move in and out of their bird box in my garden, presumably feeding youngsters, has helped me appreciate the simple but important things in life.

Ironically, nature is (unless you believe in the 5G theory or that the virus originates from a lab) also the cause of coronavirus.

It is my belief that cruelty to animals and a total contempt for nature has resulted in coronavirus.

The ‘wet markets’ are absolutely horrific from what I’ve heard. They sell dead and live animals in closely confined spaces and the animals are butchered on the site. These markets are extremely cruel – there are no animal welfare standards – and unhygienic. 

Is it any wonder that interfering with the natural world has resulted in this catastrophe?

person holding petri dish
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Scientists all over the world are working on a vaccine.

When there will be a vaccine, I don’t know, but in the meantime many of us are suffering.

We have either suffered from coronavirus itself; know someone who has had it – or even died from Covid-19; are stressing about our jobs; missing our freedom and loved ones; suffering from domestic violence, family tensions, a decline in mental or physical health … The list goes on.

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Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

My fear is that, for as long as we humans interfere with nature, these viruses will continue to grow, mutate and spread. We are supposed to live alongside nature, not destroy it. I wonder if this attitude of contempt will eventually destroy us, the human species.

 

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Charity, Environment, Writing

Butterflies and Blogs

green typewriter written blog
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

To celebrate my second blog anniversary last year, I set up a page to promote other blogs. Each time someone promotes their or someone else’s blog, I will donate £1 to Butterfly Conservation (£2 for the first 25). So far, I have raised a grand total of £14! Hopefully, this will increase as time goes by 🙂

I thought I would promote a few of the posts from the page every so often and so here’s February’s offering:

Inspiration for Wellness is a blog focused on health, beauty and natural living. She’s a registered nurse with a passion for holistic health and her inspiring blog covers essential oils, nutrition, exercise, health supplements and more…

Here’s an example of a post –

Why I Love Essential Oils

Inspiration for Wellness has a similar post to mine called Networking for Bloggers. Here you can meet more bloggers and introduce yourself…

Networking for Bloggers

Mental Health From The Other Side – who is a retired mental health nurse – has an unsettling personal story to tell. It’s a stark and important reminder that mental illness can affect anyone and everyone.

My journey through a psychotic depression – part I

If you’re looking for craft and DIY inspiration, Michelle’s blog is a lovely one to find inspiration.

One example is the DIY Shabby Chic Lamp – https://www.blessingsbyme.com/2019/03/13/diy-shabby-chic-lamp-2

These great blogs aren’t the only ones mentioned on My Favourite Blogs page (the others will get a call-out next time) so why not head there to take a look? Or promote your own blog or someone else’s?

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Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com

For information on Butterfly Conservation, a UK nature charity, visit https://butterfly-conservation.org

If you would like to promote your or someone else’s blog or blog post, please drop a comment on to https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/about/your-favourite-blog-posts/

 

Posted in Environment, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A wander around the RSPB’s Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve

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The West Midlands, especially around Birmingham, has a reputation of being a built-up, urbanised sprawl – but there are some rather idyllic parts here too.

One such peaceful haven is Sandwell Valley Nature Reserve. I was lucky enough to visit here one sunny October day and here are some of the beautiful views I saw…

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As well as the beautiful scenery, wildlife we spotted today (mostly at the hide overlooking the lake) included heron, swans, coots, cormorants, lapwings and gulls.

My godchildren especially enjoyed the mud kitchen, making mudpies (yum, delicious!), the bat trail and a nearby children’s playground.

Even where there are large cities – this site is close to Birmingham after all – there is always natural beauty nearby.

Facts of the Day

1. RSPB Sandwell Valley was once used by the nearby colliery.

2. There are a variety of habitats including wildflower meadows, woodland, scrub, wildlife garden, ponds and lake.

3. The site is based around Forge Mill Lake and is part of Sandwell Valley Country Park.

4. The address is: RSPB Sandwell Valley, Tanhouse Ave, Great Barr, West Bromwich, Birmingham B43 5AG.

5. For more information on the RSPB, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/

 

 

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Threat to ancient forests in England

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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…

Oh.

Maybe not.

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.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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’.

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Photo by mark broadhurst on Pexels.com

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…

For more information and to sign a petition, please visit https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/hs2