Thursday, 8 November 2018


R came across an article on a Magazine and thought I could write something for it - so I did - and then read the article and realised that what I had written was totally inappropriate for that magazine so now you have got it. For those who read my blog some of this will be familiar I am afraid. ( It is really a lazy way to do a blog but as I had gone and written it . . . )


It is a crystal aired morning and I wander up towards the small copse at the top of the garden, past alchemilla leaves filled with jewels of dew into a carpet of red campion and pignut.
The place is full of birdsong, then a blackbird clatters a warning and a guided missile comes hedgehopping in search of prey. The sparrow hawk is back. Over the mossy dry stone wall at the west end a jay laughs.

Almost twelve years ago, after I retired, we built a house in a mixed plot of nearly two acres. The "garden" was a scrubby area of grass, much waterlogged, steep bankings and a small wood. The mature trees were ash and sycamore with an under scrub of hawthorn, hazel, holly and a couple of rhododendron ponticum.

At the lower side was an old hedge - blackthorn, hazel, oak, sallow, holly and wild plum, no ten yards the same, thick with male fern and brambles, penetrated occasionally with an animal run.
A small stream, really nothing more than a drain from the back field, floods after heavy rain and dries up in summer and runs diagonally across the plot.

I dug out a small pond which we had enlarged, planted it with bogbean, flowering rush and water lilies. Paths were made through the woodland and surfaced with local slate chippings. Drains were put in the grass and didn’t work. I say grass because we have mown field, not tended lawn. Plantain, daisies and buttercups thrive.

When I was younger I had a dream. I would be rich and buy up land, put a fence around it, (with gaps for wildlife), and let it go. This was long before rewilding was popular.

In the woodland we spread the bluebell seed, cleared brambles, nettles and carpeting ivy. Elsewhere we planted cherries, fruit trees and a small group of white birches, shrubs and lots of buddleia. (Perhaps too much buddleia?) Of course mistakes were made - pendulous sedge is a thug and seeds itself everywhere, and we had/have weeds - bindweed, horsetails, nettles, vetch, creeping buttercup and so on but there could not be a wild garden without them.
I had always wanted a mixture of the unkempt and tamed, my wife was more keen on clipped bushes and order, so we compromised. She does most of the weeding.
Nesting boxes and feeders were installed. I decided to limit the food to peanuts and black sunflower seed. Later I added nyger seed for the goldfinches.
We have resident pheasants nesting by the top fence, one cock will wait for me by the feeders, seemingly unafraid. One day I was wandering up the garden in a thunderstorm examining the bursting stream when I was startled by a loud flapping of wings. I was face to face with a mute swan that had landed to escape the torrential rain.

The house sits on a hill, the last place up a road and then a field with views across Morecambe Bay to the sunrise and ebb and flow of the tide. After a few years my wife bought me a Bushnell camera, one activated by movement. I set it to twenty seconds of video and waited.
Early on I captured a heron catching a frog. (We have toads and common newts as well.) My brother gave me a plastic heron to put by the pond saying that it would deter other herons. After placing it I went to bed and next morning rose, drew back the curtains - there were two herons by the pond, side by side.
A pair of mallard arrived, she nests at the mill dam up the field and brings her ducklings down in the summer. In winter there are a pair of moorhens. 
We have now counted sixty different birds not including fly pasts - geese, cormorants, a kite and gulls. A sign of change came last year in the form of a little egret at the water’s edge.

One of the delights of the camera is infra red night shots, wood mice moving like Norman MacCaig's ring plover, immobile and then flat out, then static again, shrews and voles, endless grey squirrels and rabbits.
Then there are our special visitors - a fox with a lame back leg, badger in the rhubarb and once a fragile young roe deer under the white barked birches.
One visitor my wife does not like is the brown rat. I have attempted to trap them but all I caught was a blackbird and a jay. On one video the was something swimming in the pond. I hoped it was a water rat but it was just another brown one from the stables next door. (A great source of manure).

I began to write a blog in 2010, (, and it still trundles on - not how to garden but what is happening, week on week, a scattering of recipes and poetry, an occasional diatribe on the world in which we live. 
I am also an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society so much of what happens is recorded in photographs.

For me the spring really gets going, not with the daffodils but with the golden saxifrage carpeting the steam sides with its yellow/green flowers, the emergence of insects, bees and early butterflies, frogspawn, damselflies and common hawkers over the pond.

But this year has been strange, snow, the severe cold then several weeks of heat and drought. Now, in the late autumn, confused by the seasons, the quince, potentilla and eucryphia are flowering. 

I sit in my room looking up at the wood, watch leaves come and go, the ash last to come, first to go; a greater-spotted woodpecker, almost as skittish as the jays sees me though the window and heads for a high branch. A robin is on the windowsill watching me type and one cock and two hen pheasants prowl under the feeders hoping for dropped offerings. Coal tits carry seed off to be buried and forgotten whilst the fussy great tits discard onto the ground any seed not just right. The pheasants are not so particular.

When the leaves have fallen I am always surprised by the number of nests in small trees and bushes, places I have walked past many times unaware of their existence.

And now as winter approaches and the fieldfare and redwing flocks arrive I still hope for that lottery win and the chance to return land to its natural chaos - no that is not right - to its natural order, its wildness - as long as my wife with her shears will leave it alone. In a way that wish is in conflict with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust of which I am a Life Member (but an inert member) as I would not want to manage my wilderness just return it to entropy and watch.


  1. How brave you were and how well you have been rewarded all the time including all of us in the reward. Thank you.

  2. Great article but yes you are right - I recognize parts.