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Issue #29 The Misc. Adventures Digest
Escaping frantic energy, an idea to help Nature friendly gardeners, a charming video and our latest Nature Happenings...
There has been a frantic energy here in the Lake District this past week. The half term holiday coupled with glorious (disconcertingly so?) weather has seen the area flooded with holiday makers. Many of whom sadly forgot to pack their common sense and respect for the land and those that live in rural communities. I sometimes wonder what draws people to beautiful places, if then they feel no shame or regret in damaging the very place they came to enjoy. This poses an interesting conundrum for those of us who believe in access to land and to Nature, but who also care deeply for the wild things, and indeed the wild spirit, threatened by unfettered access and irresponsible behaviour. The disregard on display for communities, both human and more than human, is perhaps good evidence that spending time in Nature is very different from connecting with it. If we hope to encourage good stewardship of the land, then clearly encouraging people to spend more time outdoors is not enough on its own.
There are still quiet corners and hidden gems, but for how long, who knows. There seems to be a drive to share “secret” locations and places where wild life still finds sanctuary, but of course, once shared these places lose the very thing that made them special to begin with. It’s a tough call. We would never seek to exclude people from the landscape, yet with so few places left in good ecological condition, we will always try to be mindful of the pressure humans can put on wild places and fragile ecosystems and seek to protect them where we can. I think this comes down to a couple of things. The scarcity of favourable habitats for wildlife in our Nature depleted landscape; if Nature was thriving across the country, these isolated pockets of abundance wouldn’t be so precariously imperilled. And also, our lack of connection to Nature on a societal level, which leads us to treat the landscape poorly, not quite grasping that each time we diminish Nature’s ability to thrive, we harm ourselves also.
Well, worrying about the state of Nature aside, we had a nice weekend of small, sunny, miscellaneous adventures. Seeking quiet spots to sit with favourite trees and taking early morning / early evening swims. The water is warm enough for Benji now. It’s a joy to see him so happy and at ease in the rivers and lakes.
We have been working on our garden too. When we moved in it was a long green rectangle of shortly cropped grass, harbouring no life and no joy. We are lucky to have landlords who allow us to do as we please to the garden, and in the short time we’ve been here, turned it into something much wilder and life supporting. We have planted 14 trees, sown native wildflower seeds, made piles of dead wood, made a small pond and left a few patches to grow wonderfully tangled. We are also growing peas, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes and a few other things. We have done this on a super tight budget, borrowing and begging (and occasionally stealing) to make our little patch of land better for wildlife. It’s working pretty well - see Emma’s latest Nature Happenings below for visual evidence.
We would like to do more, but simply can’t afford to, which gave me an idea: How about small grant payments for wildlife friendly gardening? Or a discount on council tax? Incentives like those afforded to large landowners to improve biodiversity could help transform gardens, which collectively make up a huge area of potential wildlife habitat. It’s that time of year when strimmers, weed whackers, lawn mowers, and good ol’ glyphosate are wielded by gardeners across the land in an effort to curtail the forces of Nature in pursuit of tidiness - if impending ecological collapse isn’t enough to persuade people to encourage wildlife to thrive, then perhaps some cold hearted cash would do the trick.
As well as taking a deliberately slow solo wander last weekend, I was also able to finish a nice woodworking project. This solid ash coffee table is made from a slab gifted to me when I left Brantwood earlier this year. I’ve been yearning to finish it ever since I returned to being self employed, but I didn’t have as much time for woodworking as I thought I would. This beautifully figured chunk of wood had a split in one end which I wanted to keep so I made a butterfly joint from walnut to tie the two sides together. I’ve not done one before and I’m happy with how it turned out; I love the contrast in colour, and also the tension between perfection and imperfection. The legs are made from ash too, cleft and then shaved with a drawknife and shave horse. This reminds me, we still have a few wooden items available in our store.
Hello and welcome to another Nature Happenings from me, Emma.
As Andrew mentioned above, we’ve been trying to create lots of space for wildlife in our garden and last year, we cleared the turf from a long stretch beside the garden wall and sowed a ‘tall’ native wildflower mix. Last year, we only had leaves as most of the plants are perennial or bi-annual, meaning they flower in their second year, so this year we have been excitedly watching as the plants grew taller, produced buds and finally in the last few weeks, began flowering.
One of these plants, common sorrel, has been particularly successful and is now starting to go to seed. Recently we’ve noticed a very ‘charming’ group of friends has taken a liking to the seeds that have now formed where the flowers were. Goldfinches!
Known collectively as a ‘charm’, goldfinches have a distinctive tinkling call that can be heard as they pass overhead and with their bright red heads and yellow wing patch, are easy to identify. Growing up in 1980s Manchester close to the city centre, there was little in the way of local green space and therefore, wildlife. BUT along the back of our house was a large, rather overgrown patch of thistles. Goldfinches love to eat the seeds (their beak is long and thin, perfectly adapted for accessing them) and I will always remember being transfixed as an 8 year old watching these magical, brightly coloured, exotic looking birds that would come in large groups to feed on the thistle seeds. My Dad and I soon became bird enthusiasts and I was given binoculars and a membership to the Young Ornithologists Club. We’d visit local RSPB reserves together and holidays to North Wales and Scotland became opportunities to spot new birds (Dad often slamming the brakes on if he spotted a kestrel or buzzard as we were driving through countryside).
When I shared this video with my Dad earlier this week, he replied with ‘my gateway bird’ which is exactly how I’d described them to Andrew earlier in the day as he was filming it. I can certainly trace my love of wild things back to these beautiful garden birds who will always delight me whenever I spot them.
So, if you’d like to encourage goldfinches to your own garden, maybe plant some sorrel, or thistles and don’t forget to let the dandelions grow and go to seed as these too are a favourite food.
Do you have a ‘gateway bird’ or creature, or plant? Do share in the comments, we’d love to hear what first sparked your love of Nature!
We’re thinking about making our Nature Happenings into separate posts and sending them on a different day to our regular Digest. This will give Emma a chance to include more information, photos and other things such as recipes and further reading on each topic, rather than squeezing them in here. What do you think?
Anyway, that’s all from us this week. Wishing you calm and peaceful adventures for the weekend ahead…
Andrew, Emma and Benji
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