End of Autumn

breagh lane

On my walk this morning it was noticeable how many leaves and twigs were strewn along the lane. The last few days have turned distinctly chilly and whilst it has been dry, the wind has become stronger. In the sky the birds appear to be racing or maybe they are simply enjoying the change of tempo that comes at this time.

Late autumn --
The rooks flight
Driven by the wind.

When I return home I’d better move those tall pots to a more sheltered area of the garden.  I suppose in a way I will also appear to be racing to prepare for the change of season!  

October

oak tree

I sweep between the pots of geraniums, clearing leaves from the patio.  In next door’s garden, blocking the northern sky, an old oak tree raises and lowers its branches as a gust of wind passes through.

Oak tree leaves
Carried on October winds --
Letting go.

I gather up the leaves onto the shovel, just as a couple of Coal Tits skim over the hedge and land on the seed feeder.  Already they are preparing for the change of season, something that I am thinking about too.  The air is damp after days of rain.

A walk in a forest park

Throughout the last twelve months, some personal health issues and the pandemic have had an impact on my ability to write creatively.  However, when ever possible I have managed to make a few trips to places not visited in a long time.  One such outing recently was to Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down, not far from the coast at Newcastle.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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It was fresh and cool day and we were glad we had taken a flask of tea and some cake.  On leaving to return home we were presented with a beautiful view of the Mourne Mountains.  What a lovely way to finish the morning.

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A walk around the Estate

A few weeks ago we visited a private house and gardens that we had never been to before, the Montalto Estate near Ballynahinch. Although it was cold the day remained dry. Here are some of the photos that I took.

View from Edenavaddy Hill where the Battle of Ballynahinch took place in 1798

A Garden Full of Butterflies

We have a very small garden, more like a back yard, so earlier this year I did a short survey to discover how good our garden was at attracting pollinators. The results informed me that our garden was really only as good as a window-box! I couldn’t believe it and so made a great effort to add pollinator friendly plants into the two existing borders and many more into pots. Foxglove, Scabious, Hebe, Hardy Geranium and Verbena to name a few.

Now here we are in Autumn and lots of pollinators have been visiting.

(Autumn)

A windless day —

On top of every flower,

A butterfly.

Small Tortoiseshell on Verbena bonariensis

It worked! Also, because of the pandemic I thought it would be wise to plant some vegetables in pots and containers. Salad leaves and radish have been a success, they are so easy to grow, but I experimented with beans, turnips and carrots. Some successes, but the turnips have had all their leaves eaten by a huge army of caterpillars.

The butterflies we’ve seen are Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Small White and Speckled Wood. Seven different species is probably still a low number but it is an urban garden, but if I can find a few more spaces to plant some more pollinator friendly plants, then next year might be even better. More pots too! On one particular afternoon I counted at least 15 butterflies. It was such a joy to see them and a blessing to have them fluttering all around us whilst we sipped afternoon tea.

Of course, there are lots of other pollinators like bees and hoverflies visiting the garden but I don’t know many of their names.

Are you trying to encourage nature into your garden?

Ashley

Autumn’s Days!

a speckled wood on hebe

Along with the butterfly in this photograph, a Speckled Wood, there are lots of bumblebees on the Hebe.  They are all harvesting what they can for the winter season to come.

The days are shorter but still they are warm.  In the background, I can hear a Wood Pigeon calling, also Swallows and House Martins chittering above me as they search for food.  A solitary Buzzard whistles as it circles on the thermals high, high above and the bamboo wind chimes on the fence, rattle lazily.

 

Bee’s hums,

Wind’s chimes,

Autumn’s days.

 

I haven’t been able to write much, so far this month, as I have been busy in the garden.  So, as the sun is still shining, I’m able to sit between chores and absorb the sights and sounds of the afternoon.  In one of those moments this ‘sound-bite’ came to me.  The wording in my verse may be a little odd but it works for me, if it is said slowly.

Ashley

 

 

Autumn

As I opened the study window, there was a freshness in the air, a definite change.  A different scent.

 

Cool morning air

Pours through the open window,

As a wood pigeon calls,

And a bumblebee hums.

 

Sun, lights up the sky,

Streaming into the room –

The first days of autumn.

 

It was a dry morning, for a change.  A chance to take a walk along the towpath which lies a few miles from our home.  Breakfast first, then off we go!  By the time we left home, the day was warming up.  Here are the pictures I took:

 

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And finally, we arrive at Moneypenney’s Lock, where, with a group of friends, we once toiled in the bee garden.  I think this last photo is my idea of heaven.

Bee-garden

 

Air

(A) fri 26-06-20

Today is all about air!

For a long time, I have struggled with an idea; a wish to write something about the wind which this year seems to have been constantly rushing across this island.  So many times I have been in the garden and found myself thinking that I live by the coast!  I wish!  What I’m hearing are the oak trees in neighbouring gardens, their green boughs rising and falling as the air moves through them.  Then, when the wind drops, the only sounds are a mixture of birdsongs, mostly Blackbird and the cooing of Woodpigeon.

Aerial displays –

Swallow silhouettes,

High in the sky!

Looking up, the sky is streaked with long, thin trails of cloud that are being pushed up from the south-west.  It is there, high in the sky that the Swallows are feeding.  Their view of the world, I almost said “our” world, but of course, it is not, it is their world too, must be so different from ours!  How thrilling it must be to have that amount of power and energy in the muscles of one’s body!  I suppose the closest we could get to their physical gyrations would be as a pilot in the Red Arrows!

Aerial displays

Around the oak trees –

House Martins feeding!

As the wind drops, the movement of Atlantic air slows to a gentler pace, and I watch the House Martins circling and criss-crossing around and under the oak trees.  A very different display!  I think of how we take for granted the air that we breathe, it is only in our lungs for a short time and yet it gives us life.

Air!

Vital for our lungs,

Enabling us to breathe!

Air!

Unseen,

It dances all around us.

Air, we cannot own,

Without, we cannot exist!

Air!  The greatest gift!

I’m reading Jim Crumley’s latest book The Nature of Summer and he has just quoted something that John Muir wrote:  “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”.

 

https://masashimono.wordpress.com/2020/06/26/swallow-silhouettes/

https://masashimono.wordpress.com/2020/06/26/house-martin/

https://saraband.net/contributor/jim-crumley/

https://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/muir_biography.aspx

What a difference a year makes!

I took these photographs of a woodland near Crossgar almost exactly a year ago.  It was once part of the Great Wood of Dufferin that lay between Downpatrick to the south and Bangor to the north.  This remnant is just over 14 acres and is a haven for birds and butterflies.  The trees are mainly oak and ash with willow and alder in the wetter areas.

6 paths

9 paths

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13 seat

Today whilst the gales are blowing in from the south-west I can only dream of this lovely woodland and hope that it won’t be too long before I can return there.

A spring afternoon

Another bright sunny afternoon and although I’m in short sleeves, when the breeze picks up it has a nip in its touch.  The cloud is high, thin and wispy and in places, it looks like smoke drifting in from the northeast.  I have just put my jerkin on again and turned the collar up as a large area of cloud looking like cotton wool closes off the direct sunlight for too long.

There are a couple of big oak trees in neighbouring gardens and they have begun filling up with the lovely fresh greenery of new leaves.  I can still see the branches though and on one high branch, a hooded crow strains at its perch to call to its companions in the next tree.  Three hoarse calls but there is no reply, and then they all take off at the same time heading towards the fields by the river.

As soon as the crows have gone, Woodpigeon begin calling, two quite close by, although I cannot see them, and another much further away, its call filling the gaps in the calls of the closer birds.  Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) are so common now, even coming into my tiny garden when I put food out through the winter, although they prefer the ivy berries in the hedge. 

Here is something I wrote a few weeks ago in the early days of spring:

(Spring)

Plucking the last ivy berries

From the top of the hedge –

Three Woodpigeon.

3 wood pigeon (2)

Photo by Ashley

My apologies for the photograph but I only had seconds to capture the scene and the birds would not stay still, falling over each other trying to grab the berries.

I am trying to train myself to write only spring nature-verses when it is springtime and so the above verse is in my spring notebook.  When summer begins, in only a few weeks at the beginning of May, I will open a summer notebook and hopefully find lots of lovely summer things to write about there.

Beside me, I can hear the mumbling buzz of a bumblebee as she extracts nectar from the tiny flowers of Rosemary.  The plant was overlooked last year and now its three-foot spires are covered in delicate lilac flowers.  Lovely!

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Photo by Ashley

It’s difficult to believe, but a couple of evenings ago not far from here the temperature dropped to -5.8c and the violas that are in the ground were all touched by the cold.  I was able to protect one small hanging basket moving it into the garden shed and today their lovely flower faces are enjoying this spell of warm sunshine.  And so am I.

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Photo by Ashley

Enjoy what’s left of spring and stay safe.