Evening in the slow lane

Tonight was definitely slow after a full day in the garden. More photography was called for – 6.5km very hot in the depth of the lane. Stuck to the one lane – totally beautiful- the light, the flowers , the sheep, the birds – played tag with a pair of bullfinches . They went on ahead waited for me to catch up and flew to the next tree. It’s amazing how different male is from female . Probably our most beautiful song birds, yet they elude the bird table. So many secret gems in this lane.

Love the gateways – local slate

Sunny Days in the Garden

Starting early is key to getting as much done before the strength of the sun. Watering the cold frame is a must and all the pots. Yesterday, broad beans had yellowed and I thought over night what to do. I had dug compost in over winter, used general purpose fertiliser before planting. Broad bean- normally easiest by far- rarely require any attention until pinching out on arrival of black fly . What could be the problem ? Water or being eaten from the base or mineral deficiency.

Best solution with what I have to hand: spread some wood ash ( have no potash feed ) add some fish blood and bone, water in and mulch with rich compost from the heap. Hey presto – three hours on they are green.

While quietly planting out sugar snap peas, I was vaguely aware of a rustling and saw quite a few beetles scurry . Lo and behold a mole was beside my right hand!

The garden always has surprises to hand and I have to remember that I am sharing the space with all the wildlife that it supports even though I moan at mole hills ( but use their sandy soil) detest rats which seek to undermine the runner bean trench and have uprooted the leeks and get irritated by the sparrows which bath in the bird seed sending it showering to the ground and down carefully positioned holes or straight to the hens.

But we love the bird song ( not the rooks ). The wood pigeon (T two cows Taffy) the collared dove (T Two T) the wren ( t tweet trrr t t tweet ) the thrush and black bird and the goldfinches . On days like today we await the arrival of the buzzards . They are so distinctive in their call.

Nesting in the garden or nearby we have these: nuthatch, blackbirds , Robin , chaffinch , greenfinch , bluetit , dunnocks , sparrows, goldfinch , wood pigeon, collared dove , rooks , blackbirds , wrens, robins and coal tit.


The Garden this week

Gardening dawn to dusk has been the order of the days this week of Half Term. The weather has both been glorious and challenging for the garden. Whilst some established plants love the weather and the hardened tomatoes cope being transplanted, other hardened vegetable plants have had to endure harsh sun and have needed a lot of watering. The roses have been the stars of the show and every bit as exciting as last week’s Gardeners’ World rose special. The other great thing to say is that we have managed to resist spending £100 for a compost delivery to fill the raised beds, mulch and pot up. Rigorously turning the four compost heaps from the first cut of grass has yielded enough seven weeks on. Also, using the hot bed system on the raised beds has been quick fix: paper/card, manure, grass clippings , compost.

In the veg garden, potatoes have been earthed up, peas have been transplanted and supported with hazel pea sticks. french beans have gone out well and the wigwam was easy to do with hazel copiced across the lane. We have used two pallets in an A frame for the squash plants- this is a first. Normally, they trail and take their chance. We will see if this yields better results. Courgettes have been dismal, so I have sourced two plants from our first trip to the Avon Mill Garden Centre today – what a treat. We came away with some sugar snap peas and bedding plants for the many empty pots.

Evening Run

Thursday May 28th

8.5Km Regular route. Don’t often plan my route ahead of time , but tonight I phoned a friend and it was great to catch up at the garden gate. Beautiful evening, lovely light. Divine smell of honeysuckle on the air. Bit of a headwind on the outward stretch.

The Ridgeway Road

When I ran along this route the other evening, it’s comparable length and straightness challenged in a different way from the tiny lanes. As ever, I’m lost in thought and invariably think back. This was the evening exploring local history- something I wanted to do with the written notes I have to hand. Local friends may recognise the places. The poem dips and dives a bit, just like the road itself. Please enjoy.

Long and narrow upland road
Hugs the contour line;
Worn through time of toiling step
From abbey to the Devon coast.
The Ridgeway
For meditation and reflection-
A solitary journey,
A pilgrim on the route.

In Saxon times the name is changed
To Wheel Way, though still rough.
Wheels are made for ease of travel
Yet progress slow 
It's far from flat.
The reddish stain of Devon soil
The rims and soils the boots
Of those who walk.

The views are good  where land is open
A safer way to go,
Yet sheltered too from deep set banks
Stones drawn: soil piled
As fields are made
And native trees line the path 
From the winds that cut across
Forested Dartmoor hills.

Romans may have aligned some straightness
Visible in Five-Mile Lane.
Sketchy knowledge they were here.
The Normans were and used the route
And named a field Vauldeveur.

Medieval times, manorial living
Gifted by the king.
Villain farms, 
A settlement, 
Beenleigh, Trimswell names remain.

From the ridge
Lanes steep and narrow
Connect the valleys
Thread like veins,
Farm to farm 
Hidden deep ,
Long ingrained. 

Still well-used this road through time,
What memories it holds
If only we could see.
The clues are there 
But nothing more- 
The love of history.  
Ruth Partridge 

Survival of the Fittest

Might just rethink how I feel. The pond is for frogs who eat slugs and snails, and for newts and dragonflies. Then I see a grass snake swim across. I’ve not seen my last goldfish ( one which stayed black and avoided the 40 or so which went to the heron). I guess I know now what happened to him. Now the frog’s days are numbered.

Darwin’s theory doesn’t help how I feel. I love the garden: I love the help of frogs and toads. I love the first sign of frogspawn on a February day, the tiny tadpoles clinging to a piece of elodea. I love the visual interest of fish in the clear water. I love the winged combat of damsel flies and dragonflies with all their iridescence. The swallows dip and dive over it through summer . The blackbird and wood pigeon bathe- one more clumsily than the other. I love the arching stretched flight of the heron over a stretch of water; I hated its non stop visits to the pond in one evening in September.

It was magical to find the huge white eggs of a grass snake one year in the compost heap ( turned too frequently these days ) . It was unnerving to meet the largest snake ever- a Harry Potter moment one summer. While quietly tending the vegetable patch I looked up on hearing a sudden ‘hiss’ and saw jaws and tongue protruding inches from my face.

Survival of the fittest we saw in the heron incident and I subsequently compared it to lessons I teach; if only the black fish had had another to provide offspring! Now we have to see the predator/ prey struggle born out in our small pond. I think I know the winner – it’s rather inevitable.

A wildlife pond is essential to a gardener for all the benefits, though right now I’m alarmed at how precarious the balance is within a pond. Nature is sometimes harsh.

This one’s days may be numbered

History running in the Slow lanes

13.5 Km this evening took me along lanes less familiar, with opportunity to see where village originated. Our house is strategically positioned on an ancient route, believed to have been used by the monks of Buckfast ,travelling to Slapton, which is on the South Devon coast. The monastic order came from France. The road was called The Ridgeway, though in Saxon times the name changed to The Wheelway- a nod to the development of technology. A mile and a half from here is a signpost which used to point to a medieval settlement believed to be where the village originated. Today the finger-post is missing and so the lane I took goes nowhere apparently! We discovered Crabadon a few weeks ago, so tonight I wanted to explore.

Diptford is the village name, though Saxon in origin, it has been spelt in various ways: Dupaforda- Deepeford. It is most likely that the little stream which I crossed on the road near Crabadon is where the name arises from, not down on the Avon ( Avon means river and that is a Celtic word).

There is evidence of quarrying all around this area dating from the 17th Century. The evidence is seen on most old buildings, including our own of large rag slates used on the verges and eaves of houses peculiar to the South Hams, similar to those in North Cornwall ( another mining area).

Mining in the South West of England

The slate produced around Diptford and Harbertonford (Harberton Quarry) were mid -Devonian, producing very dark, grey slate of small random size. The quarry pool at Harbertonford is beside the lane and just before I reached it,the sides of a possibly bridge for a tramway remain. The farm beside the road, is conspicuous in appearance, being Gothic nodding distinctly towards a former life as a mine captain/ engine house.

I ran on to join the other lane at Rolster Bridge where the Harbourne river is measured for depth of a rise of 0.2M to 2.03 M when flooding occurs. I joined the road to Eastleigh and passed another medieval farm, Overleigh before rejoining my usual route at Westleigh.

This is the longest run done this year, but yielded a lot of interest.

Garden and Hens

A bit of a love hate relationship exists – we love to let the chickens out and let them free- range but we have to accept that they choose what to eat and trample in .Newly edged borders resemble quarries in a matter of minutes once a new area becomes a dust bath. They are noisy- although to us they have become white noise. And so they are situated at the furthest lest profitable end of the garden, under the trees so that their plumage doesn’t bleach.

If have kept chickens for over twenty years, always pure breeds, from Marins, Cotswold Cream Legbars, Sussex, Scots Dumpy , Pekins and Orpingtons. Over the years the fox has had a fair share, so we now have a ten foot enclosure for our flock of Orpingtons. I have always had Orpingtons and they are by far the easiest in temperament. The cockerels ( and we have two) are docile with me and with each other; the birds through size are not flighty. However the Orpingtons ( favoured by the Queen Mother) are very loosely feathered making them look bigger than they really are and they feathers are easily dislodged by the cockerel and so take on an oven-ready appearance if not watched. I do use poultry saddles when necessary.

We have Buff Orpingtons and blue running with a cockerel of each. One hen is Splash bred from blues; Blue Orpingtons do not breed true. The splash hen is particularly photogenic although in winter she does go a rather reddish colour on account of being stained by mud.

South Devon Banks in May

Written this morning to catch the beauty before it is gone. 

Elevated in tiered position,
Ephemeral clouds of white froth of Cow Parsley
Drift  above slender stems;
Queen Anne's Lace
In vogue and favoured.
The Violet velvet of Bluebells
Fades gracefully beneath;
Statuesque monarch 
To central orb.

Sparkling  woodland celebrities-
Fluted rubies of Red Campion, Robin Hood or Cuckoo Flower-  
And princess-cut diamonds of white Stitchwort
Dance amidst;
The strong fanfare of emerald ferns
Unfurling their fronds to the sky 
Catching the light in multifaceted array.
These are the jewels of the season...

A long awaited
Regal appearance; 
Transient in beauty,
Perfect by design. 

Ruth Partridge