Ian’s Review of the Year – Part 1
Well, everyone else seems to be doing it – there’s no ‘news’ in the newspapers at the moment – so I thought I’d treat you to some bits of 2018 that stood out for me. There’ll be a Part 2 coming hot on the heels of this one – 12 months all together is OK for ‘Fleet Street’ but they have a lot more brains than me (i.e. more people, not necessarily …..)
My initial thoughts, given the Winter we experienced – Beast from the East etc. – was that the year dawned under several inches of snow. But the camera never lies, and the weather for a few weeks at least was OK. Definitely chilly, but no snow to report in the whole of January.
We had a guest for a week, documentary maker Sophie Windsor Clive, who was in the area looking at houses and offered us a bespoke video in return for somewhere to stay for a week. The resulting film can be seen here. Not really the best time to see the garden, but Sophie managed to capture the essentials of the way in which Sue (and I) manage Nant y Bedd – and there’s a great shot of Sid Vicious giving his, rather odd, morning cock-crow!
It was just about warm enough for the paint to dry on the metalwork of a six-foot bench repair in the middle of the month and, apparently the first snowdrop showed its colours on the 19th.
The benign weather didn’t last long. On 9th February the snow returned, but not quite as bad as pre-Christmas. We managed to pollard the London Planes, which incidentally seemed to take forever to show any new signs of life.
On Valentine’s Day, it was lovely to look out of the dining room window and watch the birds nibbling away at the apple on the ‘heart’ – how appropriate.
By 19th Feb the frogs were doing what frogs do in the swimming pond. Hundreds of them! A seething mass of bodies, some of which appeared to have taken things a bit far, and had to be dredged out (dead, but still embracing) some days later!
I’d been nagged for a while to make the River Walk path a bit flatter and this was achieved, with admittedly not too much effort, a week later. The weather was so nice!
Beautiful blue skies, but exceedingly cold as days led into March, the snow again – DEEP snow – in the first week of the month. I even got the cross-country skis out.
You’l have read about our tulip-eating badgers before, but this week one of them really ‘takes the biscuit’. In the pig shed there was still a good quantity of straw bedding, and one of the little blighters decided that this was a lovely place to have a mid-foraging kip and a wash & brush-up. We monitored it for a few nights and then it obviously decided to undertake its ablutions elsewhere.
Anyway we were going off for a few days holiday, weren’t we? Well, no! the day of departure dawned to even more snow that we’d seen all winter. Snowed in!! Fortunately the Landmark Trust housekeeper couldn’t get to the property to clean it either, so eventually we had to abandon, and get our money back (we eventually got there in November).
Go back to the photos and the daffodils were in full flower just a week later. Ain’t Nature a wonderful thing?
Oh, yes! all this snow and rain meant a bumper few months on the hydro.
Fortunately that was the end of the snow & ice and when the first lambs were born on 5th April it was warm and sunny and dry.
We were just about recovering from all this late snow when we had a recce visit from Susie from the RHS Partner Garden team. Amazingly she realised the potential among all the brown, and we heard later that we will be a Partner Garden from the New Year – no pressure then!
By the middle of the month the pond was bubbling with millions of tadpoles. All around the edge was a heaving mass of wriggling tails. This attracted the newts and for the next few months any attempt at swimming was accompanied by an escort of at least 3 or 4.
As April progressed, so did the garden. Green shoots everywhere and spring flowers competing to be the most spectacular.
The night-time wildlife cameras picked up another ‘visitor’. In the cat/wood shed the cat’s food seemed to be disappearing more quickly than normal. The camera pointed the finger – a couple of hedgehogs – newly woken from hibernation – were availing themselves of a bit of free nosh before venturing out into the big, wide world. Smudge was interested but rather wary!
May was a busy month, as the wood sorrel carpeted the ‘forest’. A rare piece of collaborative work saw the runner bean arch demolished and re-built with new hazel.
Then the wonderful Liz Knight was brightening our lives with the first of her foraging courses in the garden – keep a look out on the website and newsletter for the dates of her foraging days for 2019, they are well worth it. It’s amazing what Liz finds in the most unlikely places.
A little later in the month, Sue ran the first of her Compost Making masterclasses. It was fully booked and another one had to be slotted in at short notice to cater for the extra people. As with Liz’s workshops, Sue will be organising a number of days this coming year on, amongst others Compost and Wild Gardening. There’ll also be, later in the year a day on making Christmas Holly Wreaths following a number of request after we posted ours on Instagram a few weeks ago!
At the end of May, Sue had left me in charge for a week while she took a well earned break looking at gardens in Ireland, and it struck me that we have a LOT of plants in pots that need watering very regularly. I tried counting but my poor little brain gave up. So when she decided to revamp the small bed between the lawn and the bridge I took the opportunity to count the pots used – 86!
In mid June we had the wonderful privilege of watching about a dozen or more dragonflies emerging from their pupal cases. Fascinating and almost unbelievable.
By the end of the month – and what a scorcher it was – there was produce aplenty for the kitchen and for flower displays. Oh, yes, and the strawberries were loving the dry heat!
So this takes us to the end of the first part of the year. The second part of this blog will cover our opening period and on to the end of 2018.