Thursday, 27 September 2012


The entire rural coastline of Angelsey has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  We haven't seen it all - the Angelsey Coastal Path is about 200k or 125 miles long - but we certainly appreciated the parts we did see.  We had stunning sea views from clifftops where we watched Harbour Porpoises breaking the surf; we walked through woods hearing  Buzzards calling and sat counting large flocks of Curlews and Terns on wide open beaches.  We visited historical sites and marvelled at the age of the rock formations (it has some of the oldest rocks in the world) and ended the week at an RAF air display.

In August the country lanes were filled with Crocosmia.

This month we were surrounded by Fuschia ..
...... rose-hips as big as babies' fists and the "glossy purple clots" of blackberries "like thickened wine".

This Magpie Moth was enjoying the afternoon sun.  Our visit also gave us Gatekeeper, Small White, Small Tortoishell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Small and Large Heath, Small Copper, Common Blue and Peacock butterflies.

We saw about 80 species of birds including Chough. 

There are only about 500 breeding pairs of Chough around the UK so it was nice to get a close view of this one. We saw large numbers of Curlew and enjoyed seeing the Sandwich and Common Terns.
Rock Pipit
Here's something you don't see everyday!

My what big claws you've got!

We visited a 12th century chapel:

and the site of an iron-age village at Din Lligwy:

and a burial chamber thought to date back to 3000BC:

The capstone weighs over 25 tons! How did they shift it into place without machines?
We followed in the footsteps of Charles Dickens as we visited the site of  ship wreck that claimed the lives of over 450 people just yards from the shore.  It was October 1859 when hurricane force winds pushed the Royal Charter onto the rocks.  The passengers were wealthy people returning from Australia with large sums of gold.
We finished the week at RAF Valley.  The Squadron was celebrating its 100th year anniversary and our eldest son took part in the air display.

If you want to extend your 'visit' to Wales then Janet, a fellow blogger, is redesigning her Angelsey garden at Plantaliscious.  I'm sure she would be delighted if you visited her there!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

GBBD September 2012

The dahlias are just starting to make an appearance.  I grew some last year for the first time because my mother gave me a few tubers.  I have memories of my step-father loving tending them; feeding them; staking them; digging them up in Autumn and wrapping them in newspaper to overwinter in the airing cupboard!  It seemed like a mammoth task to me! Well, I didn't do any of those things - I dug a hole, bunged them in then enjoyed the blooms.

Mum gave me some Gladioli bulbs too:

The plums are falling all over the lawn faster than I can make the jam so the butterflies are feasting on fruit. So many flew in this morning we were tripping up over them!  We had two Commas and six Red Admirals sunning themselves next to the pond.

Some of the Sunflowers are reaching stupid heights.  I've grown masses of them at the allotment to dry out for wild bird seed.

I planted lots of Hollyhock seeds last year.  Rust has been a problem so a number of them have had to be pulled up but some light pink ones and this dark one survived:

The rose arch is doing well.  We planted two red roses (Jazz) on the house side and Honeysuckle at the back.  The roses are enjoying their second bloom.  I met Ann Bird (ex President of the Royal National Rose Society) this week.  I don't think she would be very impressed with my black spot!

Then there are the Marigolds .....

..... and I still have my Pineapple Lilies and my Red Blob which turned out to be Scabious:

Visit Carol at May Dreams Garden for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Migration Camp

Silver y
It's an amazing thought that up to 240 million moths migrate to the UK every Spring from Southern Europe or Africa.  I think it's incredible that a small bird can fly that far.  Moths and butterflies look far too flimsy to survive such a journey, but they do.  The Silver Y is one of our most common visitors:

They arrive from Souther Europe in May and can produce two to four generations each Summer.  Eggs are whitish in colour and hatch after three or four days: the caterpillars are about 3cm long and light green.  They walk by stretching the front of the body then bringing the back up to meet it because they only have two sets of prolegs instead of the usual four. They have been recorded on over 200 different types of plant so basically they eat anything!!  No wonder we see them as pests!  The pupae takes 10 - 14 days to become an adult.  They start mating almost immediately and produce eggs two to five days after emerging.  The moths live about 21 days.

Scientists have been studying their movements.  They used to think the Silver Y flew across here and died in their thousands because they couldn't survive our colder climate but the latest research has shown that the UK is in fact a very productive breeding ground.  The moths multiply in number by coming here and then retrace the routes taken by their parents in huge numbers.
Garden Carpet
 Garden Carpet is another common visitor but these prefer to fly at night.  They are the ones bashing into your lighted window after dark.  They produce two generations per year and can survive our winters in the pupae state. 

They fly between April and October.  Go check your Wallflowers and Nasturtiums for holes as the caterpillars are rather partial to the leaves!

 Here is another night flyer - an Orange Swift:
Orange Swift
This poor thing only has a few weeks to live because it doesn't have a mouth.
Its caterpillar made up for it though!  It has a voracious appetite and lives for about two years underground.  It chews up anything it can find ... your prize bulbs and tubers for example!

When you think about all those millions of moths (and butterflies) flying to the UK and producing billions of eggs to grow into billions of caterpillars it's a wonder we have any plants left!  Help is at hand though.  One young Blue Tit eats 100 caterpillars a day; a brood of ten chicks gets through 1000! Britain is home to about 3.5 million pairs of Blue Tits.  According to Butterfly Conservation Blue Tit chicks eat 35 billion caterpillars a year so we need all the migrating moths we can get!

Photographs - copyright of Andy Mason

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Fruit Trees

 Last Christmas I was obviously missing my garden and needed a quick fix!  I cracked a few nuts and planted the kernels!  I then forgot all about them. 

Yesterday I was delighted to find this glossy leaved little plant was in fact a Walnut tree!

Apparently I won't be able to plant it in the garden because the roots secrete a chemical into the soil to prevent other plants from growing near them so I now need a very large pot.  Alternatively I know a nice bit of my allotment that needs clearing!!

All kinds of claims have been made about the humble walnut ... it can reduce the risk of cancer; aged rats fed a diet of 2% to 6% walnuts showed signs of reversal of age related cognitive and motor function and it helps reduce the build up of fats when eaten with meals high in saturated fats.  Definitely going to buy more walnuts now I know all that!

Last summer a friend gave me a recipe for a Lemon Drizzle Cake.  I don't cook.  I don't like cooking but this cake was worth the trouble!  When I cut open the lemons all the pips popped out and I threw them into a plant pot on the kitchen windowsill. 

A couple of weeks later I was rewarded with 20 tiny shoots. 

Success went to my head and I planted a load of orange pips. 

Have you seen the price of a full grown citrus tree?  They go for around £30.  Mine are growing nicely now.  I don't need, or want, 40 lemon or orange trees but they will make nice gifts in a few years time.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness ....

To Autumn.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
      Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core ....

The light changes in September.  The sun seems to be lower and the morning shadows are longer.  The lawn is covered in apples and plums: time for jam.

The apple and plum trees in the garden were originally part of a shared orchard.  The rest of the remaining fruit trees are in neighbouring gardens so when we have a glut of fruit so do the neighbours.  You can't give fruit away! We eat some of it but it has to be examined, washed and sliced because we don't use anything to stop insects. I freeze some and I make jam but the rest goes in the compost bin .... such a waste!  This year will be different - the owner of the allotment has an apple press we can use.  Mulled cider anyone?
In the meantime Pork Chops in Cider are delicious.

Tomorrow we plan to collect elderberries to make wine.  The blackberries at the top of the lane need a few more days but the jam jars are ready for blackberry and apple jam ... a firm favourite.