Today I came home to find our village paper – The Bramley Magazine – had been delivered. Inside was a nice surprise – a full page given over to my pictures from the Wild Wicker Walk at The Vyne National Trust property (thank you Rachel).
These are just some of the wicker sculptures you can find at the property and I heartily recommend a visit if you are in the area.
While watching my son Finlay play football this morning my friend Katie mentioned that Tylney Hall Hotel had an open day today as part of the National Gardens Scheme (who raise money for multiple charities).
My friend Paul is the head gardener there and I had said before to him that I wanted to come and explore the grounds of this beautiful hotel. Thankfully I had the afternoon free and Finlay was keen to go so I packed some snacks and my camera before heading out.
After meeting Paul and getting a map of the grounds Finlay and myself set off to explore the gardens and surrounding woodland. The beautiful landscaped gardens surrounding Tylney Hall were designed by the 19th-century garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and maintained now by Paul and his team.
My aim was to find as many wild flowers as I could and to keep an eye out for beautiful and unusual spots to photograph. Finlay’s aim was to have a full on adventure by crawling, stalking and climbing his way around the gardens (and to learn about some trees and flowers for one of his Cubs badges).
We headed off first down to Boathouse Lake by rolling our way down the immaculate lawn. We found lovely brown carp in the lake and old buildings nearby to explore.
Working our way around the Hall we explored the rabbit burrows, climbed on what Finlay called the Fairy Castle and enjoyed the lovely view from the Long Vista – well Finlay generally mucked about here 🙂
Soon we came across the Woodland garden and were confronted with a riot of colours and smells. This garden has such a wide variety of plants growing that I could have stayed there for hours. It was great to spot the Ramsons and the Snakes Head Fritillary.
There is a paper birch in the centre of the garden with strips of outer bark hanging off making it a very striking tree (we did not take any strips of bark from the tree but just explored its colours and textures).
The woodland garden has a stream, ponds and waterfalls through the middle of it with paths following it and criss-crossing it with stepping stones and bridges – a perfect kids’ playground.
Running alongside the stream we spotted a most unusual tree trunk (possibly cedar) in the shape of an arch and a thicket of bamboo with a little stone creature hidden away in it.
Before leaving Finlay asked to go back to a specific tree he had spotted on the way in so as to climb onto it. It was just situated above the Boathouse Lake and offered stunning views across it.
We only had an hour and a half to explore the gardens today so when they are opened to the public once again I will be making more time to visit this beautiful place.
Paul and his team have created a beautiful setting for folk of all ages and abilities. Currently I am recovering from a torn calf muscle and the paths were perfectly maintained so I did not feel taxed at any time. Finlay did not want to leave and I want to come back again soon – thankfully Tylney run the open day for the National Gardens Scheme three times a year.
This nature challenge was set on Facebook and you were supposed to post up one nature picture each day and nominate some one else every time you posted.
I took more than one picture each day (except for day 1) and have not nominated anyone else to take part (do not really like that part of Facebook) so I have not really followed the rules however I have really enjoyed myself.
My last few pictures are a real sorry looking group to some but beautiful looking to me.
I was working all day and it was raining quite hard by the time I got home. Nobody was keen to be going out (I cannot blame them) so I fashioned a rain cover for my camera out of a freezer bag and got ‘down and wet’ amongst the wild flowers and blossom in my garden – Alison somehow found the spectacle of me lying in the wet grass quite funny for some reason 😉 The beauty of flowers are I feel enhanced with a few extra raindrops as decoration.
It was a wet finish to the challenge however the rain made sure it was a fitting challenge. I am not nominating anyone else to take up the challenge however if you feel the urge, feel free to take it on.
Yesterday I picked the kids up from school and instead of curling up in front of the Xbox or the iPads off we went to the woods.
I know we get out to the woods on a regular basis however not normally on a school night. I did not know what we would do with our limited time but as it turned out it was surprisingly a lot.
As soon as we got into Morgaston wood the kids picked up some deer tracks and after sitting for five minutes we were rewarded by spotting a deer crossing one of the paths.
As we trundled along I got them to find some fungi. There was not much around but we did get some King Alfred’s Cakes, some Birch Polypore and some Artists fungi.
The Bluebells were really coming out and there were plenty of Primroses around. Just on the edge of the wood though we spotted our first Cuckoo flowers by a ditch. This is a sturdy little plant as it grows in some really exposed areas however it does have a very dainty look about it.
It was not all learning – there was plenty of time to just explore and get muddy – as you do 🙂
This was a challenge to myself as I had to watch every step I took in case I re-opened my torn calf muscle – It was worth the effort though.
How photographers manage to get that perfect shot of insects flying about beats me but I did have fun trying tonight as part of day 5 of my nature challenge.
I gave up chasing (well hobbling really) and settled down amongst the flowers instead to see what was going on. There was plenty of life on this stitchwort. Not to sure what these little fellas were but they were pretty busy running around.
There are a lot of bees in our garden at the moment and I spotted this one resting in the grass. Not long after I took this picture she took off and was away in a flash.
I am not sure if this was a hoverfly or a small wasp but the flower it was sitting on was a tiny daisy so that gives you the scale. I took the shot as I could see that is was really covered in pollen.
I spotted some ladybirds and this one seemed to be chasing some aphids about – I take it that it was dinner time 🙂 The picture was shot as the ladybird was standing on the tip of a white dead nettle.
My last shot of the evening was of this little ladybird settling down on a nettle leaf. An ideal location for a ladybird to curl up in so as not to become a meal for some other animal.
Last month the theme of the monthly photography competition over on Bushcraft UK was ‘Re-wilding’. I kept my eyes open for a decent shot but to no avail, then of course as soon as the month’s competition closed I spotted lots of locations.
I went out today to capture these scenes of nature starting to re-wild these human-made spots around my village.
I spotted the disused phone box first. From one angle it looks like it is still in use but from the other side nature is slowly starting to hide it as the ivy envelopes it.
The building below I likened to a vase as it seems to be holding a wide variety of plants from trees, bushes, ivy and (if you get close enough) flowers.
In another location there is an area of land that has had some commercial buildings pulled down. In amongst all the rubble are loads of tyres. They have been there so long now they are teeming with life. At the very bottom you can see the lichen that is colonising many of the tyres.
My favourite picture was of a burnt-out car that has been left abandoned in this area. Right in the middle of the boot area a small patch of Herb Robert has managed to gain a toehold in this otherwise sterile metal structure.
Tomorrow’s instalment I think will be on insects as they seem to be becoming active now.
As I was contemplating heading out to do some photography for this nature challenge I spotted some beautiful blue wild flowers. The problem I had though was they were all really tiny so out came my macro lens extensions, mini tripod and remote control for my camera.
There was a bit of wind and it was occasionally gusting so I had to be really patient to get a decent shot. The picture above of the forget-me-nots I took in the front garden in view of anyone passing by. The sight of me lying down on the grass taking close ups in front of everyone seemed to amuse my wife Alison and daughter Catherine for some reason 🙂
The next flower was really tiny – ground ivy (aka alehoof or creeping charlie). It was tucked away in a shady corner under a lot of leaf cover. I used all my lens extensions to get this shot right into the centre of the flower.
To finish off I spotted an upright bluebell flower. I took this one without the tripod and when the wind suddenly stopped. I think it was worth the perseverance though.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring in this 7 day challenge but I may venture further afield if I can.
Day 2 of this Nature Challenge found me back home in Bramley. I am really struggling to walk at the moment so I cheated today and jumped into my car and headed off down to one of the ponds in my village.
I thought it was time to see what life I could spot in the pond. Along the way I spotted some lovely wild strawberries in amongst the primroses as well as some yellow archangel. Beside it all the arum was starting to push up their spadix ready to transform themselves into things of beauty.
The pond I visited has had tv’s and other detritus dumped into it but it is still quite beautiful ringed with marsh marigolds and a centre of reedmace. There was a slight oil sheen on the surface but that did not seem to hinder the wildlife in any way.
I soon spotted some tadpoles in amongst the decaying material in the pond however on the right you can see a catkin (the pond was strewn with them) from a pussy willow tree.
In my attempts to get a close shot of a tadpole (they do move fast) I inadvertently snapped a catkin. The complexity and beauty up close of the catkin really surprised me.
Finally I managed to get a half way decent shot of the little fellas. Not the most fearsome creature to track down but they sure are a difficult one to pin down and photograph 🙂
I re-ripped my calf muscle again (not looking where I was going) so I cannot move very far but luckily I spotted these beauties preening themselves in front of the unit.
My home for the weekend is the lovely canal boat the Wee Dram (Thames Boat Training) that you can see just to the right of the picture.
Seemingly this lasts for 7 days so I may be doing a bit of macro photography in my garden as my mobility for the next few days looks like it will be severely curtailed – then again whoever said a challenge was supposed to be easy 🙂
Last weekend I went for a walk in the woods with my lad Finlay and his friend William. I was planning a bit of a hike however I spotted a glade in our local woods where an area has been set aside for kids to build dens.
This post follows the steps I talked the lads through the principles of shelter building. This is not a full on How To…. guide to shelter building but more of an introduction to the principles of it all.
We had a wander around some of the shelters that had been left up by other groups and talked about the positive elements of each shelter. I find that this focuses the mind on what has worked well and how these elements can be incorporated into any other shelter.
We looked at how high a shelter needed to be, how many walls were really needed, how much thatch was needed and what was needed to keep them warm dependent on different weather conditions.
I told the lads that we only had time to build a small shelter (Sunday Dinner was calling) so they found some rope and wood and I showed them how to tie everything together to form a spar. We had no tools at all so had to work with what we had.
After a chat they opted to go for a simple lean to shelter as this they felt would take the least amount off time.
I told them they would need lots of sticks to lean up against the spar (more than they thought) and that they needed to be roughly the same size. After a quick demonstration on how to snap wood using the base of two tree trunks that were close together they were soon hard at work.
We put a pole on the ground to roughly mark out where each pole should be driven in and soon they had the basic skeleton of the shelter formed.
One of the hardest things to get across to them was the need to always have a tidy working area. we had lots of dead wood lying about so I made them clear it all away from the shelter so we had a safe area to work in.
Once that was all done we had a good forage around for some spruce boughs. There were plenty lying around that had been cut down by the foresters for the kids to use (I wish all woods had an area like this).
After layering some of the spruce boughs onto the skeleton of the shelter I got the boys doing the penguin walk. This is the way I get the kids to gather up lots of leaves in a very short space of time. They would quickly make little piles of leaves and throw them over the spruce boughs.
Once the bottom half was all done they got some more spruce boughs for the top and covered that in leaves as well. Finally to keep the leaves in place they laid a load of small sticks over the leaves (to try and help stop the wind from blowing it all away).
Once they had finished the outside it was time to sort out the interior design. They spent a little while weaving back in all the loose (well some of them) spruce needles back into the thatch.
Once that was done they foraged for some more spruce and made themselves up a little bed to keep themselves off the cold earth.
We did not have permission to have a fire in the woods but that did not stop us from pretending – after all that is what we kids do 🙂
I got them to build themselves a heat reflecting wall in front of the shelter (about two paces from the shelter). They just pushed two sticks into the ground and stacked some logs up against them.
All that was left for them to do was construct their long log fire (one step away from the shelter) and relax.
This took us about one and a half hours to complete and managed to have fun along the way as well.
As I said this was more about the principles of shelter building (done really to help towards one of their Cubs badges) and not a full on How To…. to building a shelter. If we had more time we would have put about 3 times as much debris over the top, the bed would have been raised up with a much thicker mattress of spruce and the sides would have been closed in.
This afternoon I spent some time in the woods introducing my son Finlay and his friend William into the intricacies of shelter building (a post will follow on this).
We did have fun building the shelter however it was not free fun. I let the lads zoom off into the woods (I am still hobbling along) only to find them as usual at their favourite perch.
This perch is all that remains of the root system of a fallen tree. It looks horrifying with all these spikes but they know only to climb up and down it from the back where it is smooth. I thought it looked rather lovely today in amongst all the bluebells.
This last week has found me cooped up in the house nursing a ripped muscle in my calf – the after effects of a nearly 50 year old going to a trampoline centre with his children (my advice is don’t do it – no matter what they say about how much fun it will be).
I was taught a while ago that any decent photographer can stand in any spot and after considering all the angles take a half way decent shot. This is what I did here at the side of the man made lake at The Vyne.
I spotted some newly burst sycamore shoots at the base of a tree at the edge of the lake and thought that the angles could work for me. It was a bit of a struggle to get low down for this shot without causing myself any further damage but the soft mud at the edge of the lake worked for me 🙂
I have worked on the picture to brighten the new sycamore shoot on the right but to to give the picture a slightly darker look all over – probably to reflect my current mood where I do feel slightly better now but am still really frustrated over my lack of mobility.