Thursday, 30 June 2022

Wildflowers in formal bedding - Kedleston

Every summer in recent years the gardening team at Kedleston Hall have sown wildflowers seeds in the formal bedding areas of the grounds. I'm not sure what the original owners of the hall would have thought but I think they're lovely. 

In past years the beds have been filled with poppies and Queen Anne's lace, or California poppies, but corn marigolds are the stars, filling the centre of the beds with California poppies,  lunaria and other flowers at the edges.

The bees and beetles certainly seem happy with this year's choice.

The lion just remains aloof.


Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Midsummer poppies

Last week on Instagram I happened to spot that someone fairly local to me had been out to see a field of poppies, so I went to track them down.

They're growing on a hillside above the Derbyshire town of Belper, just off an old lane which follows the ridge-line. We parked at the northern end and walked, but there is limited parking on the lane itself (in use that evening by dog-walkers).

The lane goes up, past a small wood, then down, and gradually, on the left-hand side, glimpses of poppies appear, till finally the whole field comes into view.

It's a bit like that moment in Room with a View when the countryside opens out to a view over Florence, but, you know, with Belper in the background instead. Who needs Italy anyway, when you've got Derbyshire? 

Despite dashing through this area of Derbyshire quite frequently, I rarely stop and walk there, so was pleasantly surprised at how lovely and 'countryside-y' it is, especially not being far from Belper town centre. Another time I'd come prepared to explore further (with a map though as the signposts aren't reliable)

Taking our time a little more on the way back, I spotted wild roses, blackberries, and foxgloves in the hedges. Maybe the weather contributed but it certainly felt like a lovely quiet spot for a walk.


Friday, 24 June 2022

Off to the Forest for Timber Festival

It's one week to go till Timber Festival, and I'm delighted to have been invited along again by organisers Wild Rumpus.

This welcoming, family friendly festival is held on 1-3 July, at Feanedock, a 70 acre site in the National Forest, where trees are beginning to reclaim the land after years of open-cast mining. The underlying theme of the festival echoes this regenerative power of nature, encouraging us to get outside, sit under a tree, and feel the calming, restorative properties of natural surroundings. All the outdoorsy sort of stuff I try to incorporate into my life.

 With this in mind a lot of guest speakers will be talking about their involvement with nature - whether it's the impact of increasing woodland in the UK, or adventuring off the beaten track, discussing climate mitigation (and why it might not be enough) or planet-friendly food, there's plenty to give food (sorry) for thought. 

It's a festival, so of course there's music. The big Nightingale Stage will host a wide variety of sounds over the weekend from folk to Latin rhythms, with Penguin Cafe, The Orielles, and Holy Moly and the Crackers headlining the three evenings, while among the trees at the smaller Eyrie Stage there's alt-folk, Bollywood, and late night DJ sets. And if you fancy something more intimate, there's storytelling, spoken word performances and music around the campfire in the DIY Utopia area.

Throughout the day you could learn woodland survival crafts, spoon carving or leaf identification, participate in a dance workshop and early morning yoga, join in with a maypole dance or a drumming workshop. Or if all of this is too hectic, you could try forest bathing, follow the Gloaming Light Trail, or just lie back and listen to the trees.

I mentioned earlier the family-friendly nature of Timber, and there are certainly lots of activities for children though I haven't really covered them. To me, what's more important is that site, facilities etc are suitable for us older folks, and at Timber I've always found them to be. An added bonus at the moment is that everything takes place either outside or in well ventilated tents; I've avoided Covid so far, and I'd like to keep it that way if at all possible. An outdoor event seems a safe way to have fun.

As befits an eco-conscious event, Timber are promoting a variety of ways to travel without cars - the Timber Bike Ride, free bus shuttles from nearby train stations, and incentives to all who arrive on foot. I'm too far away, (and let's face it, not fit enough to cycle or walk) but for folks like me there's th opportunity to off-set carbon emissions. You can find more information under their Sustainability section. 

 I've been along before as a 'Timber Pioneer' courtesy of Wild Rumpus in 2018 and 2019, and thoroughly enjoyed both weekends. Having missed two years, I'm very excited for next weekend, and really grateful to Wild Rumpus for asking me along. Weather permitting, this weekend we'll do a trial run of putting up the tent, and the sit down with the programme and start to plan who to see and what to do. I suspect as always there'll not quite be time for everything.


Wednesday, 22 June 2022


Here we are, halfway through the year, basking in the sunshine 

yet starting on the count down to Christmas!

For now, at least, the weather is perfect, and it's time to slow down a little and appreciate the moment. I'm finding time to laze around in the garden, admiring my un-cut lawn cum mini meadow, smelling the roses, letting the laundry blow gently in a breeze.

 Both garden and allotment are starting to be productive - peas, beans, potatoes, blackcurrants, and radishes from one; sugarsnap peas, rocket and land cress from the garden; strawberries and lettuce from both. It's that fun time when home-grown harvests are a delight, rather than the processing chore they'll become in a few weeks.

It's not quite all lazing about though. I walked up to the wood to pick elderflowers for fizz, and chopped garden mint for (perhaps obviously) mint sauce. 

The garden apples trees are in the middle of their 'June drop' when tiny fruit litters the ground allowing bigger better one to remain and grow on the tree. And I was delighted to spot this more unusual fruit - the first quince on my tree. Several years ago I was given some quinces, and saved the seeds, from which this tree grew - so it's truly homegrown fruit. 

On Midsummer itself we went out in the late afternoon to find this stunning field of poppies high on a Derbyshire hillside. Aren't they wonderful?

And I picked a bouquet of slightly-wild flowers from my garden - foxgloves, grasses from the lawn, feverfew, sage, and the first sweet pea. 
Good, quiet ways to mark the turning of the seasons.


Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Chatsworth - purples, pinks, and a wild splash of yellow

It's strange, but true, that I can visit Chatsworth gardens year after year, and still find something new new to delight in. Obviously a garden doesn't stand still. Some plants may die over winter or a summer drought, and need to be replaced. A new bed or border added. A wonderful flower or tree spotted in another garden that HAS to be found a place. None of these thoughts really applied though to the flowers which struck me most this visit. 

I've seen the peony borders in the cutting garden before, but never apparently at their best. This visit they were absolutely gorgeous, just caught at their perfect moment - neither wrapped in tight buds not overblown - and in almost every possible shade of pink.

I love the mix of round head of peonies with the tall stately foxgloves (even if they are 'wild' flowers). It's a perfect combination.

Moving on to the gardens by the Maze. Again a moment of catching plants at their peak - this time tall spires of delphiniums towering over the froth of what I think is thalictrum. 

Beautiful, both close to, and when seen from above as we headed to Arcadia, the series of glades that now wind along the hillside. 

 Here and in the rock gardens by the Strid the planting scheme is paler - irises again, astrantia, and a stunning peony.


Carry on to the furthest end of the garden, and you'll meet a sudden riot of colour with candelabra primulas lining the stream which trickles down from the Grotto Pond. These again were flowers that I'd seen before but never looking quite so fabulous.

My photographs have struggled to capture quite what a joyous colourful mix this is.

Almost, but not quite, last, a re-worked area of the garden. For many years these beds were filled with roses, then when something problematic was discovered in the soil they were replaced by wildflower beds, and now they've been planted up with a variety of flowers all within the pink to purple to blue range.
At the moment irises are the stars here but the lavender is in bud, continuing the colour theme, then I expect other similarly coloured flowers to follow through the summer. Going back to see this area develop is a good excuse for another trip out.

Despite my own garden being a mismatch of every colour, I love that here one palette continues through the whole garden but I promised a wild splash of yellow, didn't I? 

All around the edges and less trodden areas of the garden you'll find small wildflower sections; banks of buttercups interspersed with orchids and clover, growing naturally through the uncut grass

but reaching the end of the Arcadia walk a glimpse of yellow appears, 
and as it comes clearly into view is revealed as a mini meadow 
filled with buttercups and oxeye daisies 

I've seen this area developing over the past couple of years, and had assumed the buttercups in there were accidental, to be weeded out as other plants grew. But it seems they weren't, and aren't they just wonderful?