Tuesday, 26 May 2009

More From My May Garden

My garden, like many others I suspect, is a busy place at the moment with plants bursting into growth and birds nurturing their young. I am replenishing the feeders and the bird tables daily and the bird bath shows regular evidence of some very grubby activity! The main culprits seem to be,


and their youngsters!

They are also eating voraciously, they storm into the garden in gangs announcing their presence with loud squawks and squabbling fiercely, with the juveniles loudly clamouring for attention from their attentive parents,

'I'd teach a starling how to speak and sing,
Till every word and note with truth should ring,
With all the skill my lips and tongue impart,
With all the warmth and passion of my heart.'
(Wilhelm Muller)

Of course the Starlings are not the only ones feeding their young at the moment, it is obvious from the frenzied activity, and sometimes unkempt appearance of so many adult birds, that they are busily engaged in bringing up their families.

The Coal-tit

Go, bird of no pretensions,
Fly aloft, treble-voiced tit,
Dear the one at one with me,
From the south to my sweetheart.

(Llywelyn Goch ap Meurig Hem , trans Joseph P. Clancy)

'So, Chaffinch, sing;
A happy piping pipe, the world to please;
For this is Spring.'
(Thomas Ashe)

Great Tit

You of the jet-black head with parting grey,
Grey feathered check, and unassuming coat.
Again I hear your quick continuous note
Of friendly invitation. Peck away!

(Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley)

'Blue tit, who could measure the power of your tiny spark of energy?'

(Norman McCaig)

These Cornflowers came originally from my mother's garden and spread readily around the flower beds.

'I dearly love this garland blue,
It ever speaks of thee;
And tells me, none could be so true
As thou art, love to me.'
(William Warner Caldwell)

This Greenfinch wasn't looking quite as grumpy as they usually do! Wordsworth called this bird the Green Linnet.

'Thou, Linnet! in thy green array,
Presiding spirit here today,
Dost lead the revels of the May;
And this is thy dominion.'
(William Wordsworth)

My Clematis, 'Nelly Moser' is in full flower now.

'It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.'
(William Carlos Williams)

I have been pleased to see the Robin more in evidence lately as I had wondered if it had been scared away by a cat or worse!

'A merry song, a cheery song!
In the boughs above, on the sward below,
Chirping and singing the live day long.'
(George Meredith)

'Little Robin Redbreast
Sat upon a rail,
Niddle, naddle went his head;
Wig, wag went his tail.'
(Mother Goose)

This Oriental Poppy is a real splash of cheerful colour in the flower bed at the moment.

'The strange bright dancers are in the garden
The wind of summer is a soft music
Scarlet and orange, flaming and golden
The strange bright dancers move to music.'
(P.A. Ropes)

Look who's up to mischief again! I slightly rearranged the feeders on the metal pole so the Wood pigeons can't reach, but not to be thwarted this one has turned his attention to a different feeder!

The Ceanothus is looking lovely at the moment, I do think all the rain last Summer has benefited the garden this year.

This Paeony which was originally from my mother and father in-law's garden has burst into flower this week after seeming to be in bud for some time.

'If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom'
(Audra Foveo)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Adderbury Lakes: A Small But Well Kept Secret

Last weekend we visited Adderbury Lakes in the village of Adderbury in Oxfordshire. It is a small Nature Reserve, whose existence, many people in the vicinity are unaware of, with two small lakes which used to be part of the estate of Adderbury House, a large 17th century country home owned by Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester.

The house has been remodelled several times over the years: in 1661 for Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester, in 1722 for John Campbell 2nd Duke of Argyll, in 1731 by the architect Roger Morris and in 1768 by the architect Sir William Chambers for Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. At this time Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was commisioned to produce a design for a park and there is a rough undated sketch of the proposed lakes in one of his work-books. Sadly most of the house was demolished in 1808. In the 19th century Adderbury House was owned by Major Larnach whose Adderbury-trained horse Jeddah won the Derby at odds of 100-1 in 1898 and also won at Ascot the same year.

After the second world war it became a nursing home and about fifteen years ago, after it had stood empty for ten years following the closure of the home, the house was bought by Anton Bilton a wealthy property developer who gave the lakes to the village which are now managed by the Adderbury Lakes committee and beautifully maintained by parties of volunteers.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention by Diane Bratt, Chairman of the Lakes and of Adderbury Parish Council, that, and I quote:

'Anton bought Adderbury House but he never bought the Lakes. The Lakes (like the House) were owned by the County Council and Adderbury Parish Council bought the Lakes from them.'

I apologise for any misunderstanding, my information was published in good faith and from a supposedly reliable source.

The lakes in their present form were created around 1815 by the then owner William Hunt Chamberlain. He also added a number of structures including an ice-house, a boat-house, a small covered viewing seat and a summer-house.

On our way to the lakes the sun was shining radiantly as we followed the winding footpath,

lined with Cow Parsley,

but it promptly disappeared as we reached them!

There are some wonderful, very old trees, some dating back to the early 1800s.

As we walked through these trees we came across,

this Mallard resting among the vegetation.

'Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups.
It bottoms ups.'
(Ogden Nash)

There is an impressive list of birds to be seen including Hobby, Kestrel, Spotted Flycatcher, Green and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Creeper, Nuthatch and many, many more but sadly we only heard some of their songs and I'm afraid I have never been very good at identification by song.

We saw Buttercups,

'I found a buttercup today;
A lovely thing it was, indeed,
And yet in theory, a weed.'
(Reginald Arkell)


'Oh that lone flower recalled for me
My happy childhood's hours
When Bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers.'
(Anne Bronte)

Herb Robert,

'Little Herb Robert,
Bright and small,
Peeps from the bank
Or the old stone wall.'
(Cicely Mary Barker)

The Ice-House built around 1815 was an early version of the modern day refrigerator and is now a listed building.

This small covered viewing seat is dated around the same time and was marked as a garden seat on Capability Brown's plan.

'What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to [sit] and stare.
(W.H. Davies)

The Summer-House is now reduced in size and reshaped since the lakes were re-claimed.

In this lovely tranquil place not all was peaceful!


Ramsons or Wild Garlic was growing in abundant splendour.

It has been necessary to fell some trees because their roots were beginning to pose a danger to the dam between the lakes, others have been felled or reduced in size as they were dead and becoming a potential hazard by the footpaths. Many of these have been retained to provide habitat for insects and to allow fungi to form as the wood rots.

We saw Ground Ivy flowers

'And where beech trees had mixed a pale green light
With the ground ivy's blue.
(W.B Yeats)

and Rowan

'Oh! Rowan Tree Oh! Rowan Tree!
Thoul't aye be dear to me,
Entwined thou art wi many ties,
O' home and infancy,
Thy leaves were aye the first o spring,
Thy flowr's the simmers pride;
There was nae sic a bonny tree,
In a' the countryside'
(Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne)

We walked back past the old Boat-House,

along the winding path, pausing to admire Wisteria on an adjoining house,

and back to the gates to remind ourselves of all the bird and animal life which we could have seen!

A very enjoyable outing though and well worth a return visit to hopefully see more bird life. Finally a big thank you to A and S for telling us about this lovely place.