Monthly Archives: May 2010

Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island lies in the heart of Poole Harbour, the world’s biggest natural harbour (or second biggest if you listen to the Aussies). We took a picnic with us and caught the ferry from Poole to the island. Brownsea, which was host to the BBC’s Autumnwatch in 2008, is owned by the National Trust and famous for two things, the first ever Scout camp in 1907 and red squirrels, one of the few places in the South you can see them.

The island is 1 1/2 miles long and is a great place to stroll around for the afternoon with a mixture of pine and broadleaf forest, heath and wetlands that are home to a variety of wildlife. With only 250 red squirrels we’d be lucky to see one. It happened within 5 minutes with one scurrying along a wall just behind the castle. Then no more all afternoon, we were lucky as most visitors don’t see any. It was too quick for my camera though.

During our picnic we were visited by this Peacock who put on a fabulous display for us.

This is the Baden Powell stone commemorating the first ever Scout camp.

The views from the southern edge of the island were glorious.

Chloe was worn out by the time we got back to the ferry, we saw about half of the island so there’s plenty to do for a day, we didn’t go to the Nature Reserve. Then it was back to Poole Quay for fish and chips and home. A great day out!

First Sweet Pea Flower

I thought I’d share my first ever Sweet Pea flower with you; as I’ve never grown them before this is a bit of a landmark moment.

I’m growing quite a few plants this year so I’m sure there’ll be many more to come.

It’s also the first time I’ve grown Red Orach, I have no idea what the finished article looks like but here’s how they’re progressing.

Not many slugs about, luckily we are blessed with lots of amphibian visitors to the garden.

Container Veg

The plot is full so it’s up to various containers to take the strain of the remaining planting. The first job was to get the rest of the tomatoes out. I used a couple of growbags with three tomotoes in each (Brasero, Moneymaker and Gardener’s Delight) grown in bottomless pots. I also stuck a couple of old squash bottles in each growbag for easy watering. The Brasero have started to fruit already. I’m hoping there’s no blight this year, we have enough green tomato chutney!

There’s also a couple of tomtoes (Tumbling Tom) in chimney pots.

And some runner beans in a plastic trug.

Carrots in tubs.

The long carrots in dustbins. They don’t look up to much but I thinned them out this weekend and the thinnings had 3-4 inch tap roots as straight as an arrow. I am cautiously optimistic.

Some potatoes in bags.

Herbs in an old Belfast sink.

I pulled out the last purple sprouting broccoli plant which had gone to flower and harvested the first of the spring cabbage.

And what about the rest of the weekend? We’ll be off out with the girls of course. But if I get a few minutes to myself I’ll be drinking a couple of beers. Tribute from St.Austell Brewery and Gem from Bath Ales, which I tried on a recent visit to Bath, are my favourites from the south-west.

And watching a Dennis Hopper film or two. Sad news to hear of his death, Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now are among my favourite films.

Looks like the rest of the weekend will be warmer now the rain has passed through. Hope you have a great Bank Holiday!

Bloomin’ Marvellous

I thought I’d take a few photos of all the lovely flowers in bloom in the garden and give you an update on veg progress.

The Iris that I got hold of through Freecycle last year is now in flower, I’m really pleased as I put it in a narrow space that runs alongside the beech hedge and it has flourished.

I love this yellow rose which is by the front door. I moved it a couple of years ago and it was in a bit of a state. Now there’s nearly 30 flower buds on it which is fantastic.

Just above the rose bush is a hanging basket with pansies in full bloom.

The first sweet pea flower isn’t far away.

Even the veg are getting in on the act, here the broad beans are blooming and the caulies are filling out nicely.

The Spring Cabbage aren’t far off harvesting now.

It’s the first time I’ve grown Calabrese and they are coming on well. The girls are going to love devouring the green florets when the appear.

I almost can’t wait for winter to taste the sprouts.

The front garden bed is now fully planted with courgette and squash. The gladioli along the wall of the house are starting to show. We should get dozens of strawberries and raspberries as well, I must get the netting organised to keep the birds off them!

It’s the first time I’ve grown this lettuce, Red Deers Tongue.

I took a gamble on this sweetcorn planting it out over a month ago, now it’s come through the plastic bottle cloche, so fingers crossed it was worth the risk. It’s the first time I’ve grown sweetcorn so we’ll see how it goes.

The onion bed looks a lot tidier now, I’m hoping that the ‘visitor’ doesn’t return, I lost 8 onions to the burrowing but I’m hoping the rest settle down and fatten up over the summer.

Finally I don’t know about you but I’ve been watching the Chelsea Flower Show in awe of what these people can achieve. It was great to see Medwyn win the President’s Award at Chelsea, how does he do it? Amazing veg display! One day I’ll get there!!!

8×8 Photo Challenge

Jo from The Good Life has set me a challenge to post the 8th photo from my 8th photo album. As I accepted the challenge I then began to wonder what the 8×8 photo would be, probably some close up of a cauliflower or some other exciting vegetable! As it turned out it wasn’t that bad……….

The photo is of me, (well my back anyway), approaching the famous Tan Hill Inn on the Pennine Way. The Tan Hill Inn is at the far end of Swaledale near where the borders of North Yorkshire, Durham and Cumbria meet. As you can see in the photo it is in the middle of nowhere and claims to be the highest Inn in Britain at 1732 feet. Many years ago it serviced the pack horse trains hauling coal across the Pennines and now serves tourists and tired walkers like ourselves. We’d walked from Thwaite that morning and by the time we reached the pub we were in need of light refreshment. With a few lambs roaming free in the bar a couple of pints of Black Sheep seemed in order and it certainly made the rest of the journey that day go a little bit faster.

It was apt that this photo turned up for a few reasons. I love hill walking and walking the Pennine Way has been a dream of mine for many years. Sadly I do not have the spare time to commit to three weeks solid walking so a friend and I made a plan to tackle it in stages of 3-5 days at a time until we finished. A couple of children have got in the way since then but we started at the Nags Head in Edale, Derbyshire and are now at High Force in County Durham. I have a Pennine Way page on my blog which I’ve been promising to update for some time to become a complete guide to the Pennine Way, the best long distance footpath in Britain, I must get round to updating that page soon! Our next leg of the journey is from High Force, County Durham to Knarsdale, Northumberland which is only 3 days and roughly 45 miles. I don’t fancy the second day though from Dufton to Garrigill which is 16 miles and over 3000ft in ascent over Cross Fell, the highest hill in England outside of the Lake District (there’s some good photos here, ah the bleakness you don’t get that down South!). And finally it passes through Jo’s neck of the woods up there in Yorkshire.

So there you have it, I’ll be staying at the High Force hotel next Wednesday night if you’re passing and fancy a pint (they brew their own beer) and I’ll be stepping out on the next leg of the journey bright and early the next morning, hangover permitting! That’s the beauty of hillwalking!!

Go for it!

With temperatures soaring into the high twenties I decided to go for it today and get everything planted out. So in went the courgettes, squash, celery, runner beans, french beans, cabbage, sprouting broccoli and kale.

But first I had to mow the lawn and then get some of the bedding plants in. I started by emptying 3 stone baskets we have on the front verge by the road. I filled them up with fresh compost and planted a mix of bedding plants in them. Petunias, Busy Lizzie, Gazania, Pansies and Antirrhinums all went in which should give some nice colour and make the front a bit more presentable. The rest of the bedding will go along the edges of the drive entrance and wherever I can find a space in the flower beds.

Next it was onto the front bed which I built recently and was half full with brussel sprouts, beetroot and sweetcorn. In went some squash (Scallop Mixed and Sunburst) around the sweetcorn (Sweet Sensation), about 10 celery plants (never grown celery before), a couple of rows of cabbage (Golden Acre Primo) and some early white and late purple sprounting broccoli.

Then onto the other beds. The kale (Scarlet and Dwarf Green Curled) went in alongside the spring cabbages (as soon as they are ready for harvest I’ll start replacing with another batch of calabrese and cauliflowers). I earthed up the spuds and ripped out most of the sprouting broccoli at the back of the large bed. It had started to flower. As you can see from the photo they were huge, this one is 7 foot tall.

This is were the beans were to go. Not ideal as you’re supposed to have a trench running over winter getting filled with kitchen waste. I dug a trench anyway and chucked my last bag of well rotted chicken manure in along with some pellets, I’m hoping that will be enough to feed the beans. Up went the A-frame of 8ft bamboo canes and in went 4 runner beans (streamline) and six french beans (blue lake). I planted a runner per cane and 2 French beans per cane. Around the spare canes I sowed some more french beans (our house prefers them to runners).

In the front bed there are strawberries, raspberries, a gooseberry and blackcurrant bush. Along the house wall I’ve planted a row of gladioli (Mexico & Passo) which are starting to poke through. The rest of the space was filled with Squash (Scallop Mixed) and Courgettes (Zuccini, Black Beauty and F1 Orelia).

Then I turned my attention to the onion bed which has been subject to some unwelcome visitor over recent weeks. I’ve narrowed it down to a rat, next doors cat or my dog Polo, so I fenced off the bed last weekend to fend off the cat and dog and some rat poison went down under next door’s shed. Some of the onion sets have been dug up so I chucked them and made sure the rest were well in and had some fresh soil around them. I also removed the soil around the shallots which are coming on really well. This will allow them to form, I may also remove some to allow the rest to grow bigger.

I thinned out the parsnips.

In the greenhouse the tomatoes are in their bottomless pots on a bed of gravel (ring culture) and some will go outside in grow bags next week. There’s also chillies and peppers, aubergines and my back-up cucumbers are coming on, the first batch sucumbed to the cold.

The herb area is looking good. It’s handy having it by the back door and I also put the mixed salad there so it’s easy to get to. There’s flat leafed parsley, basil, chives, rosemary, bay, oregano, sage and thyme which will brighten up our cooking over the next few months.

I really pleased with these dahlias. I’m growing these in pots, I have some more tubers in the front flower bed and some grown from seed to go in.

Elsewhere in the garden the clematis are starting to flower.

And the rockery is in full bloom.

So a busy day. All the beds are full now until the spring cabbage come out and I’ve still got leeks and pumpkin to plant out and swedes to sow. A friend up the road has some space so I may have to plant them out there. Now time to put my feet up and enjoy it, barbie tomorrow I think!


38 years old today meant I’d earnt a day off work. We dropped the girls at nursery for the day and drove down to Portsmouth to do some shopping round Gunwharf Quays, take a look at the Spinnaker Tower and the Historic Dockyard. About 45 minutes from home means we don’t normally go to Portsmouth, unless we’re catching a ferry, so it was good to find quite a bit to do for a day out.

The weather was great, a lovely sunny day and Gunwharf Quays was a good place to wander round for a couple of hours with a mix of shops that both Rachel and I were interested in. We had lunch on the waterfront courtesy of Pizza Express (those Tesco Clubcard vouchers again!) and then went to visit the Spinnaker Tower.

I remember this being one of those doomed Millenium projects but I was impressed by the structure of a sail right on the water’s edge near the harbour entrance. Fraught with problems the tower finally opened in 2005 and stands at 175m high. There are 3 viewing decks the highest being the Crow’s Nest at 110m and from here you can see around 25 miles an area covering Chichester to the east, the Isle of Wight to the South and Southampton and the New Forest to the west.

From the Crow’s Nest there’s a good view of the historic dockyard home to HMS Warrior, Victory and the Mary Rose.

Just across from the tower is this building in the shape of the funnel.

Some people couldn’t bring themselves to look down through the glass panel.

This is HMS Warrior.

And HMS Victory famous for being involved in the Battle of Trafalgar.

There were also a few modern ships in dock.

Another great day out. Now I must get back to some gardening!