Category Archives: Nothing to do with Gardening

The Lost Village of Imber

Imber, a tiny village on Salisbury Plain, is one place I’d always wanted to take a look at but had never got round to it. With access denied for most of the year due to it being in the middle of one of the largest army training areas in the country the village is only open to the public for a few days mainly over Christmas and Easter.

There has been a settlement at Imber since 967AD but the village was evacuated in 1943, to provide an area for American troops to train for European invasion during WWII, and it has been deserted ever since. Villagers were given 47 days notice to leave which must have been a huge wrench as some families had been there for generations. In recent years the village was used for urban warfare training with the army erecting a number of shell houses for training purposes. These, along with the church and one or two other buildings, is all that remains of Imber.

I also wanted to see what the roads were like for cycling as I plan to come back later in the year on the bike. The main access road is between Gore Cross (on the A360 just north of Tilshead) and Warminster and is a decent tarmac surface, no problem at all for bikes (mountain or road), cars and motorbikes. The MOD obviously spend more money on roads than the County Council as it was in a better state than our local roads.  The tracks from north (Bratton) to south (Heytesbury) have unsurfaced sections and are unsuitable for road bikes.

Warning Signs

There are plenty of warning signs as you enter the plain past the checkpoint. The roads are accessible over Christmas with today being the last day of access.

Imber Church

The churchof St Giles has been restored and is kept going by work of volunteers and donations. It will be next open again at Easter.

Imber Village 2

Imber village

There are various army training houses dotted around the village.

Military debris

Tank

On the road between Imber and Warminster there were a number of tanks and vehicles along the road which have been used for target practice. We didn’t have any great views as the Plain was shrouded in mist giving it a very enclosed, eerie feel but, despite this, there were quite a few people about making the most of the last day of access.

Hopefully there will be one or two days of open access over the summer as this would be a great place to spend a few hours cycling.

Charity cycle ride

The end

I completed my first ever charity bike ride this weekend. The “Ride on Nelly” Tour de Test Valley sportive has 25, 50 and 100 mile distances to choose from and is based in Grateley, near Andover, Hampshire which is just up the road from me. This is the second year and it was supported by over 800 riders – they raised in excess of £60K last year which all went to their charity CALM which is set up to prevent male suicide which is sadly the biggest single cause of death in men aged 20-49 in the UK. The ride is in the memory of Nelson Pratt, a pro-snowboarder and keen cyclist, who tragically died in June 2012 and is organised by his family and a gang of volunteers.

What a fantastic event it was. Known as the “friendly sportive” this was not a competitive race but a friendly cycle through the beautiful Hampshire countryside. So it was a perfect way to try out cycling with other people – having only ever been out with one other person on my bike before and more often than not cycling on my own early on a weekend morning. Although it was on “open roads” most were quiet country lanes and there was only the odd main road to cross which tested my ability to clip in and out of the pedals!

We’d had horrendous rain for two days prior to the ride which made the road conditions quite bad, particularly the first half with lots of mud and gravel patches that had been washed into the road. There were many punctures each one I met was greeted with a friendly “you alright mate” offer of help to which there was a thumbs up or a “I’m OK mate” as riders were getting on with fixing their bikes. Quite a few people were in pairs or groups so had help at hand should a puncture happen. I succumbed at the 30 mile point and pulled over to fix my bike. Fortunately it was only a 100 yards from the food station so I took advantage of the track pump to get my tyre back up to the maximum pressure. The weather on the day was murky although dry with no wind so conditions although a bit damp weren’t too bad.

I’d chosen the 50 mile route which is further than I’ve ever cycled in one go so I was a bit nervous at the start but soon got into it which was helped by the very friendly nature of the event and fellow cyclists. The food station was very welcome indeed with fantastic chocolate brownies and a cup of tea. And it was great to turn into the last 100 metres with a few spectators clapping and cheering me home!

There was a hot meal for every rider at the end – I choose a lovely veggie curry – together with a goodie bag. A chap I’d been cycling with during the first part of the ride bought me a pint of cider from the beer tent so all was good. As we left the band was playing and it looked like quite a few people were settled in for a well earned party. We were off to friends for a much needed roast dinner and I will definitely be back next year!!

Too cold!

A day off today as it’s half term and I thought I’d get some jobs in the garden done whilst supervising the children. But it’s far too cold – bitter – and it’s just started snowing again.

On the veg front there’s chillies (Joe’s Long) and aubergines (moneymaker) in the propagator, garlic on the plot and broad beans and shallots in the greenhouse. The only harvestable veg left are parsnips and artichokes. I am yet to get really motivated for the season ahead, a spell of mild weather would help.

To change topic – as there’s not much veg growing happening – one thing I have been concentrating on is losing a few pounds – which had crept on in the run-up to Christmas (and recent years!). This has developed into a challenge to get somewhere near the weight I was when I came back from travelling, thirteen or so years ago now. Turning 40 and a recent MOT at the doctors has helped spur me on as well.

But the real catalyst was watching the Hairy Bikers – “Hairy Dieters” – series. They like and eat the same food as I do, not diet food, but hearty meals – pies and curries etc – so I thought if they can do it and lose 3 stone a piece so can I. Now I’ve never been skinny (well maybe when I was 8 years old) but according to google I should be 15 stone for my height of 6’5″. I’ve set myself a target of 16 stone – like I said I’ve never been skinny and I’m 40 now – which when weighing in on Jan 5th left me with a 3 stone 12 oz weight loss target. Quite a bit to shift but so far so good as I’m 1 stone 10 oz down in 5 weeks. It’s not revolutionary though – it’s not the latest craze, the 5 day 2 day diet thing, just eat less and exercise more. Plan the week’s meals in advance, cook everything from scratch, no processed rubbish – quite timely with the horsemeat scandal – and count the calories. 1200 – 1300 a day which is roughly half or the normal daily allowance for a man. 300 for breakfast, same for lunch, 400 for dinner and 200/300 for fruit, snacks and milk during the day. A 2 lb a week loss will get me to 15 stone by the end of August.

I can recommend buying their book from which I have cooked many of the recipes. For example last Sunday was bacon with poached egg and balsamic tomatoes for breakfast, chicken ceasar salad for lunch and chicken jalfrezi for dinner.

All I need to do is keep at it and I’ll let you know how I get on – and try and do some more gardening as well!!

Tough Love!

This is the most unusual wildlife photo I’ve taken on the plot. Whilst watering in the back garden I came across these two slow worms locked in an embrace – or one was trying to eat the other one! I’ve seen quite a few slow worms around the garden but never witnessed this before. They’re living along the edge of one of the raised beds and have now started to be a lot more active in the warm weather.

A busy weekend ahead with our Horticultural Society plant sale this afternoon and loads of plants to get out in their final positions. Hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Statto!

I’m not much of a geek but I do like a good stat now and again. So I took notice this year when the Annual Report from WordPress came along and here are the facts and figures for the Two Chances Veg Plot Blog.

This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2011 (compared to 13,000 in 2010). In 2011, there were 64 new posts (compared to 137 posts in 2010), growing the total archive of this blog to 211 posts. There were 206 pictures uploaded (compared to 561 the year before). So I’ve written less than half the posts I wrote in 2010 and had almost three times the number of visitors, obviously it’s not all about quantity!

The busiest day of the year was March 22nd with 205 views. In 2010 it was 137 views on December 19th.

Thanks to the top referring sites in 2011 who were:

twochancesvegplot.co.uk
ukveggardeners.com
vegpatchblog.blogspot.com
glallotments.blogspot.com
theidiotgardener.blogspot.com

Some visitors came searching, mostly for sweet peas, hunter thompson, two chances veg plot, celery, and snow. In 2010 sweet peas, big flower pots, flower, cauliflower, and gladioli were the most popular search words.

Visitors came from round the world including Trinidad & Tobago, Peru, Sudan and Northern Mariana (I had to look that one up they are a group of islands in Micronesia).

My posts may have longevity as 4 out of the 5 most viewed posts in 2011 were actually posted in 2010 (2 as far back as March 2010).

So there you go, does it mean anything? No of course not, it’s just a few stats.

That was 2011 and roll on 2012! Happy New Year everyone!

39 Not Out!

My 39th year starts here, the last chance saloon before the big one! Well before I start on all those resolutions I’m going to have to sample some of these great ciders that Rach bought for me. I’m a fairly recent convert to cider and perry and this selection from Henney’s Frome Valley, Henry Weston’s Herefordshire and Aspall’s in Suffolk are among my favourites ranging between 5.4 and 8.2%. I feel a cider farm visit down the road to Somerset coming on!

So did you get what you wanted?

Well that’s another Christmas over, so did you get what you wanted?

On the gardening front Rach gave me a pair of Felco No2 secateurs which are fantastic. I have four pairs of cheap and battered secateurs in the garage which annoy and frustrate me every time I use them. They will now go in the bin and I’ll never need to buy another pair again. I’d recommend these as a must buy for any gardener, they’re in a different league to anything I’ve used before.

The Gardman frost guard will come in handy in spring to get some tender veg underway and I was also given some more seeds, well you can never have enough can you! A leaf salad mix, sunflowers and sweet peas.

Carol Klein’s “Grow Your Own Garden” will teach me some propagation techniques, I must admit I’m a bit lost with cuttings etc so this will be a great help.

I was also given a copy of Jamie’s America which has loads of great recipes to try and Mike Harding’s Walking the Peak and Pennines. Regular readers will know I’m a keen hill walker currently completing the Pennine Way in stages so this book will be well thumbed over the winter months.

I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and got what you wanted from Santa!!