Had a meat delivery today, from Donald Russell, the Scottish butchers.

The meats are always packed with dry ice, although the little packs are quite often depleted by the time I get to open the packaging.

Today, there was a fair bit remaining. So I thought I would have a little fun.

Dry ice creates some amazing effects.

Dr Livingstone I Presume …

Well not exactly, nor did I run into Lord Lucan or any other missing individuals.

Of course not. After all, I’ve just spent the last few hours delving into the upper reaches of my garden, in sunny Hampshire.

To my knowledge, neither  Livingston or Lucan have ever ventured into my garden. Livingstone spent many years in Africa and Lucan could be anywhere having supposedly been seen everywhere.

After hacking back the brambles and Jasmine vines, and numerous other invasive plants I can state categorically that neither of the aforementioned gentlemen are to be found.

The Lost Gardens of ???

Unfortunately, this end of the garden has been neglected somewhat. Not helped by our seven month sojourn in Australia. The picture above was taken after I had made a valiant foray, boldly forging a path through the brambles and Jasmine with my electric hedge trimmer.

What’s triggered this sudden exertion ?

Well, the fence, that you can just catch glimpses of, is in a very dilapidated state. In fact I believe the plant life, that I have been cutting back, is all that is keeping it up.

The plan, much like a game of dominoes, is in several parts.

Step one, is to replace the fence. This I am going to do with the help of my daughters boyfriend. Actually, he is the expert, I will just be his bitch. So approximately twelve metres of featherboards mounted on arris rails.

Ancient Shed

Step two, is to replace this sorry broken shed. The plan is to replace it with a new one, approximately twice the size. This shed has performed admirably until late last year, when some guys I had hired to do some hedge work, chose to fall through the roof. Removing the shed will be a bit of a voyage of discovery as there are signs of subterranean habitation. That is to say there looks to be a tunnel going under the shed. You can just see the entrance to the right of the door. Potential inhabitants range from hedgehogs thru foxes to rats. Hopefully not the latter although, I believe, we would have seen more signs if there were any living that close to the house.


Step three, replace the cheap n cheerful greenhouse with a more robust version. Over the last couple of years this structure has suffered damage due to strong winds. So it’s time to get rid.

The latest storm blew off the door, breaking the plastic glazing. Blew off the skylight (now placed back on the roof). And, I have since discovered, the wind also dislodged some glazing at the back. So, no longer weatherproof. The greenhouse was used last year, to grow a bumper crop of tomatoes. Not this year though.

And finally, step four, build a new deck area to provide a base for a swing chair. Our current swing chair has suffered under the same rough weather that has damaged the greenhouse, bending and snapping the canopy frame.

So in preparation for Step One I have been clearing out the jungle. This has been more like an archaeological dig, rediscovering long lost areas. Who knew that the space behind the shed was the hiding place for our first ever patio table and chairs. Originally white, but now turned green by nature.

What is that, a snake ? Nope just a long section of garden hose, bright yellow.

Birds Skull ?

Then there are the bones. I’m guessing, judging by the size of the skull, that they are the remains of a pigeon. Question is, who did it ? Did the luckless bird fall prey to one of several neighbourhood cats, or perhaps one the kites or kestrels often seen soaring overhead.

Dinosaurus Plasticus

And what was that I spied, hiding under the coniferous canopy ? A baby dinosaur ? No, just a toy abandoned by one of our grandchildren. One brave enough to venture into our mini jungle.

The bulk of my discoveries, from behind the shed, have now found their way to the municipal tip. I didn’t have room for the old wheelbarrow or the old fridge, so another trip has to be planned. Perhaps some of the junk in the garage will find it’s way into that next load too.

As I post this, I have received notification that the fencing materials will be delivered on the 15th April. So I’d better start limbering up and get ready for some hard physical labour.

Cheshire Wandering (3) Quarry Bank

After the girls had, two days ago, overdosed on retail therapy, and I had walked my pins to stumps exploring the River Weaver, it was time to absorb some more Cheshire history. And so off we set, into previously uncharted territory. Our destination, Quarry Bank Mill.

Quarry Bank Mill (Styal Mill)

Quarry Bank Mill (also known as Styal Mill) in Styal, Cheshire, is apparently, one of the best preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution. Built in 1784, it is now a museum of the cotton industry. The mill was established by Samuel Greg and was notable for the innovative approach to labour relations. This was largely as a result of the work of Greg’s wife, Hannah Lightbody.

On entry to the mill you are guided through the wool/cotton making process, entering on the ground floor. The various informational boards lead you, initially, up to the top floor. This is probably a good thing as by the end of the tour, on weary legs, you exit at ground level, not far from the cafe. Thankfully there is a lift to get you to the top.

As one explores there are plenty of information boards which enable you to understand the environmental and the social changes that were happening at the time. Lots of examples of the typical “contracts of employment” and apprentice indentures. The mill employed men, women and children. Men, then as now, were typically paid more than women doing the same jobs. Nothing changes.

Perhaps, one of the most significant events of the time was Peterloo …..

The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 had resulted in periods of famine and chronic unemployment, exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws. By the beginning of 1819, the pressure generated by poor economic conditions, coupled with the relative lack of suffrage in Northern England, had enhanced the appeal of political radicalism. In response, the Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary reform, organised a demonstration to be addressed by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt.

Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and several others on the hustings with him. The Yeomanry charged into the crowd, knocking down a woman and killing a child, and finally apprehending Hunt. The 15th Hussars were then summoned by the magistrate, Mr Hulton, to disperse the crowd. They charged with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 18 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier.

Continue reading “Cheshire Wandering (3) Quarry Bank”

View From The Conservatory

Well, not really the view from the conservatory. More about what’s been happening in the garden, supported by a couple of photo’s.

We have had a couple of really nice days, blue skies and sunshine that have spurred us on to set about tidying up the garden. Not of course without having a spot of breakfast out on the deck. Whilst we were having our breakfast the fellow below was obtaining his.

Great Tit

This Great Tit was helping himself to the peanuts. Access had been made very easy due to the large hole the squirrels had made in our “squirrel proof” feeder. Of course I don’t begrudge him the peanuts, I don’t mind that the squirrels managed to break into feeder. My only objection is that I paid good money and that the manufacturer claimed that it was squirrel proof. I guess their product testing didn’t take into account that juvenile squirrels are small and that their head and shoulders could get through the same gaps that birds use. Oh, and that squirrel teeth must be diamond tipped as they can quite happily gnaw through steel mesh.

So back to work. Having finished our breakfast I set about a serious pruning of our apple tree. The level of my attack is such that, for the tree, it is a case of  sink or swim. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any apples this year. But I am sure, assuming the tree survives, that we will be in full production for future years. The label on the tree when we planted it said the variety was Egremont Russet and that the harvest period would be late September / October. Once the tree got into its stride, it always produced hundreds of fruit. Not that we ever managed to harvest many. The local wildlife always got there first.

First would come the squirrels. Did I mention we have squirrels ? They don’t wait for fruit or nuts to ripen. As soon as they can they are there, chomping on the green apples. Again I wouldn’t mind but I noticed they were a bit free and easy with my crop. They would grab an apple, eat half, toss the uneaten half and go get another.

Later, as the year progressed and the fruit ripened, along come the Blackbirds. They like to peck their way around the tree. They don’t eat whole apples either, just peck their way into the core then leave the apple to rot on the tree.

Finally, there are the wasps. Now these crafty blighter’s start on the really ripe apples. They seem to deliberately choose the side nearest the main trunk of the tree. Which means I couldn’t see what they were up to. I have lost count of how many apples I went to pick only to find an empty skin, still retaining the original shape. Hanging like a chinese lantern.

So this year they are all in for a shock. No apples.

Mr Robin, picture below, was very vocal during my pruning actions.


I haven’t seen any Robins eating apples but I am pretty sure they enjoy the various bugs on the tree so he was probably berating me for cutting back on his food supply.

So having decimated the apple tree, I turned my attention to cutting back the Jasmine. This was something we planted a few years back. It steadfastly refused to grow where I wanted it to go, ignored the trellis installed especially for it. That is until high winds broke said trellis causing it to hang down. The Jasmine immediately climbed aboard and smothered the trellis. The most amazing thing is that, somehow, a new clump of Jasmine self set about seventy-five feet away from the original plant and set about clambering over everything in sight. Rose bushes, Lavatera, Sweet Pea sticks and the back fence have all been fair game.

The trouble with trimming this stuff back is the way in which it twines itself around other plants. You can’t just set to, hacking and slashing, but have to unravel all of the vines, which can be a bit painful around the rose bushes which are well endowed with large thorns. We also found some sneaky brambles lurking in amongst the Jasmine vines. The spines on brambles are, I find, infinitely worse than rose thorns. Needless to say, I have several scratches and puncture wounds to show for my troubles.

All of my efforts have been overseen by Masher from his vantage point in the bird bath.


He’s called Masher as that was his previous function. He is a spud basher extraordinaire. However he was damaging our saucepans, so he was evicted from the kitchen and now spends his time trying to intimidate the pigeons who come for a drink. They don’t seem to care about his evil eye so he has become redundant as a bird scarer.

As I said, we’ve had a couple of really nice days. On the second day I took advantage of the fine weather to start another project, the laying of a base for the BBQ.

I am cheating somewhat, having purchased a few square metres of interlocking plastic shed base. The idea is that having roughly levelled the ground, I will position the plastic interlocking tiles on the prepared ground. Then a cement mix will be poured over the whole, filling the spaces in the tiles and providing a level base for the positioning of patio slabs. That’s the theory anyway. At this point I have levelled the ground and positioned the interlocking  plastic tiles.


Also keeping a watchful eye on my activities was Arry the Ant. I think he could tell I was getting a little overheated and offered a refreshing drink of water.

The BBQ base has not been completed, unfortunately, it has rained all day today so the final stage, the cement and laying of the patio slabs has been deferred.

Perhaps tomorrow, for now I have aches in places I didn’t know existed. But I do have a sense of having achieved something. The garden is looking tidier.

That Robin Again

Oh and something else, people keep asking me how I am enjoying retirement. Well over the last couple of days I have come to realise that I am liking it just fine. Being able to do stuff when you want to, being able to sit out in the sunshine having breakfast or lunch on a weekday seems to good to be true. But after all, that’s what I worked 38 years for.


View From The Conservatory

For several weeks now I haven’t posted any “views”. Due in part to the demolition and rebuild of our conservatory. The process of this resurrection is something that I have been boring you with for seven weeks or more.

So today I thought it is time I reinstated my “View from the conservatory” posts, triggered by the view across our neighbours back gardens and specifically the dew laden cobwebs.

Cobweb & Spider
Cobweb & Spider

It is that time of the year when the big fat “orb ?” spiders string their webs across every conceivable object.


A fine display of natures jewellery and as autumn progresses I am sure we will get many more such delays.

View From The Conservatory

Well not really. It’s been too hot to sit in the conservatory, other than late at night and then you can’t see anything. In fact the conservatory, at night ,used to freak out my granddaughter because she couldn’t see if anyone was looking in. With the lights on the windows pretty much turn into mirrors.

Anyway, the conservatory, is pretty much just a link into the garden and I just wanted to share some snaps taken this morning. So here goes.

If you have read my post from yesterday, we are getting our garden back in shape after some harsh clearing which also meant the severe cutting back of our rose bushes. We have several roses which had gotten pretty straggly over the years. They had all been cut, more or less, back to the main stem (trunk in some cases) feeding from the graft point. Much to our surprise they are all coming back to bush form at the rate of an express train. So much so that we have our first bloom. And here for your delectation is a picture..

Yellor Rose - I just wish you could smell the scent.
Yellow Rose – I just wish you could smell the scent.

just along from the rose we have a Lavatera which is also busy blooming. This one is in a pot, we have had them before but they don’t seem to like our soil and none survived. But this one is giving us a beautiful splash of pink.

Lavatera - Candy Floss
Lavatera – Candy Floss

This variety claims to be “Candy Floss” according to the tag supplied by Keydell Nurseries, the garden centre from which we purchased this example.

A first for us this year is growing tomatoes in a hanging basket. One of our baskets is ripe for picking while the other is still in that transition mode betwixt flower and green fruit. Here is a shot of the crop ready for picking so far.


I don’t know the variety but the plants are producing small but sweet and juicy tomatoes.

Last, but by no means least, I present to you a frequent visitor to our garden. No name, no breed variety, not ours.

Not happy to have been discovered
Not happy to have been discovered

Why are you pointing that thing at me ?

I had just sat down with a cup of coffee when I saw this black shadow sneaking up into our apple tree. I managed to get in close without scaring kitty into a panicked descent which wouldn’t have ended well for either of us.

Bye bye for now folks.

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