My name is Luke and I am 8 years old. I live in Minchinhampton and I go to Minchinhampton School. I live with my brother Conor who is 4 and my mum and dad. I am writing this to give you a little taste of what it is like in lockdown for an 8 year-old.
I have been taught at home, because the school has shut, but not all day so I have been learning through play. The things I like playing with most are my Play Mobil Romans and Lego. I have learned to play Cribbage and now I am very good the highest level on the computer. I have also learned Roman Numerals.
Early one morning we heard lots of crow noises in the garden on the patio. We looked out of the window and we saw a buzzard with a crow in its claws. Lots of other crows were trying to help. The buzzard swooped off with the crow. I think the crow was dead.
GOD BLESS THE NHS: THE PEOPLE’S ARMY
WHO DEFEND THE SICK
The National Health Service is our army to defend the sick, and we rely on it today more than ever before. Everybody knows that it came into existence as a result of the political ideals of Aneurin Bevan and the post Second World War Labour government. Most probably do not know, however, how those ideals became a practicality – how the political will was turned into a working National Health Service. The family history and motivation of the leading medic at the time, Hugh Lett, is one which is particularly relevant in the midst of our present COVID-19 crisis, and may bring comfort and hope to us in these desperate times.
Hugh Lett was born in 1876, served as a surgeon in the military hospitals on the Western Front in World War 1, and was appointed President of the Royal College of Surgeons just before the outbreak of World War 2. In 1946, he was appointed President of the British Medical Association, and thus was in office when the extensive work took place to turn Bevan’s ideal into an effective Health Service – not an easy task, but one which he and the team that supported him achieved with great success. When Sir Hugh Lett, Bt [as he then was] died in 1964, his obituary included the following: “his wise statesmanship proved invaluable to the profession and the nation in preparing for the start of the National Health Service.”
I was impressed by the lovely display of spring flowers outside Vestry Cottage in mid-March. The many clusters of miniature daffodils worked really well with the multi-coloured polyanthus, thank you Anne, Colin and Sally.
A week of dry and at times, warm weather towards the end of March has allowed some outside gardening, as opposed to greenhouse and kitchen gardening. And with some time on our hands, the beds have never looked tidier at this time of year. I’ve been a bit too enthusiastic with some seed planting, as plants are now germinating which can’t go out for several weeks. The aim now will be to keep them light, cool and frost-free. The seeds sown so far are tomato, 3 types of lettuce, spring onion, courgette, chilli pepper, sweet peas, broad beans, mange tout, and butternut squash.
The perennials are showing, and one or two will be lifted and split in the next few days. The osmanthus, a slow growing evergreen shrub with a fragrant white flower in spring looked well this year. It’s at the top left of the photo. I’ve been out for a couple of walks along Besbury Bank looking for bumblebees as part of a survey being done by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and although I’ve seen plenty in the garden, none have been seen on the bee walks. We do try to grow plants which offer nectar and pollen all year round, so having taken out a choisya this year, the replacement may well be a mahonia, and the variety ‘soft caress’ looks interesting, as with no spines on the leaves, it will be easy to work around. The pulmonaria is loved by the bees in spring.
The day war broke out – the Second World War – I was three years old. I can’t claim to remember those dreadful words, ‘This country is at war with Germany’, but I can recall the atmosphere in the room as they were said. My grandfather was sitting smoking his pipe in his big reclining chair with its tweedy brown cushions. In fact, he always seemed to be brown and tweedy himself, except on Sundays when he wore a grey suit with a rose in his buttonhole. I suppose it couldn’t always have been a rose but there was certainly always a flower from the garden. He had a cunning silver device with a thimbleful of water in it, which clipped behind the buttonhole and was lovingly prepared by my grandmother.
On the shelf beside him stood the radio, an impressive wooden box with its circle of mesh and its array of large knobs, and beside that stood his pipe stand and all the paraphernalia necessary to the 1930’s smoker.
Difficult to believe, but I’ve found moss on my lawn, and from my bag of excuses, it’s down to the pond overflowing as a result of too much rain! There are two actions for control of moss in lawns: removal and prevention, but it’s worth considering the causes as it would be ideal if any action taken helps to prevent its’ recurrence, and I don’t mean filling in the pond.
From the RHS list of causes, we can dismiss acidic soil and drought-stressed grass, which leaves compaction, worn and sparse areas, shade, mowing too close, impoverished soil, poor maintenance and waterlogging.
I’ve been reading up the excellent community purchase of Box Woods and generally about the value of trees, or at least the various ways in which their benefits may be measured, generally reduced to a monetary value. The lowest value is the replacement, though not necessarily with a like-for-like. Next up is the value of the timber, which varies with type and quality, as well as quantity, but is readily priced. Assessment becomes more difficult when we look at the benefits in terms of flood prevention, reduced soil erosion, carbon capture and storage, pollution removal, traffic noise alleviation, wind barrier, wildlife harbour and amenity value. But if we look carefully at each item, and estimate for example, the annual cost of installing and maintaining a fence to reduce traffic noise, as opposed to planting and maintaining a hedge, it is possible to generate a total annual benefit value – and it is far higher than the value of the timber.
Writing an article about oneself seems a strange thing to do, and to be perfectly honest it is not something I am very comfortable with. But since I’ve been asked to do so on several occasions by more than one person, I feel I ought to comply.
So where to begin? My youngest daughter cheekily suggested this: ‘I was born in the olden days in the beautiful city of Coventry.’ Both statements are untrue. Sure, Coventry is where I spent my formative years, and where, on Easter Eve 1978, aged 14, I played the organ for my first church service. The church itself was like a lot of Coventry at that time: a rather brutal, brick-built edifice. It is no exaggeration to say that even then I wished for a more congenial setting, somewhere where there was a sense of the continuum of Christian worship.
As a teenager, I learned the cello and harpsichord and spent most of my waking hours dreaming about playing baroque music. After a classical education at school, I studied music at Oxford - where, it so happened, I first encountered a chap called Julian Elloway. (He bought a harpsichord from me in 1986 which he kept until very recently.)
Since leaving university I have done a number of things musically: taught the cello and piano, written a Ph D and other articles on Bach, founded and directed a baroque orchestra and, for more than thirty years, promoted professional concerts. I have played keyboard instruments for a number of orchestras including the BBC NOW, CBSO and Philharmonia, and broadcast on radio and television.
Cheltenham is where I live with my wife Rachel, and three ‘grown-up’ children: Lois (23) who is at Tübingen University, Germany; Henry (21) who is completing his degree in Maths at Oxford; and Sophie (16) who is doing her lGCSEs currently. My spare-time activities include wild camping, cooking, building and plastering, making musical instruments, brewing (and drinking) beer and oil painting.
What else is there to say? In the short time I have been playing at Minchinhampton I have found the church community wonderfully welcoming for which I am very grateful. It is an absolute delight to play the organ there. And, yes, the setting is more than congenial: it is the kind of place that I dreamed of back in the 1970s.
There are two sightings missing from the 2019 garden bird list shown. A great spotted woodpecker and a mistle thrush should have been included, so the total was 32 over the year. However, there were some notable absentees: song thrush, green woodpecker and fieldfare, which we usually see. The siskin and owl were new to the list, and others have been seen regularly, but frustratingly, haven’t landed in the garden. Also, the waxwing I dream about has yet to become a reality.
The mistle thrush was spotted eating mistletoe berries on one of the crab apple trees, but had gone before I could point my camera.
In the garden, snowdrops may be divided once the flowers have finished as these recover and spread quickly if planted in the green. Stroud potato day is on Saturday 1st February, so time to start chitting. If the soil is not too wet, prepare your vegetable beds, and sow tomato, chilli and pepper seeds in a propagator or indoors.
Prune wisteria, cut back deciduous grasses and remove dead grass from evergreen grasses. Sow sweet pea seeds in a cold frame and pot up lily bulbs, dahlia tubers and cannas. Root cuttings can still be taken from Verbascum, Acanthus and Phlox. I tried a garlic spray on the Verbascum last year which seemed to dissuade the mullein caterpillars from turning it into lace. I’ll try it again this year, and on the Solomon’s seal.
Remove the old leaves from Hellebores and clear the beds to allow the spring flowers to be seen to best effect.
A new interstellar object in the form of a comet was discovered in August last year by Gennady Borisov, a Ukrainian astronomer. This object is in a hyperbolic orbit which means it will not be captured by the sun’s gravity and will not return. The first interstellar object to be detected was an asteroid, Oumuamua, which visited the solar system in 2017.
I’ve been drawing up my list for Santa. At the top is a polite request for a big bag of excuses, each to be drawn at random as the need arises. The first one covers the lack of tidiness in the flowerbeds, which is ‘to help overwintering wildlife’, but I’m struggling to find a satisfactory one for not clearing the pond during the autumn – too wet?,…too deep?....
However, the apple trees and vines have been pruned, and the roses will be next. The old hellebore leaves will be removed to allow the early spring flowers to be seen, and the same applies to any clumps of epimedium, whose delicate flowers are often covered by the last seasons’ leaves.
It’s early November, and the rain and wet ground is preventing some of the tender plants from being lifted and stored for the winter by this fair weather gardener. But between showers, I’ve managed to sweep up a few leaves and top up the bird feeders, and during the showers and long dark evenings, catch up on the odd book or magazine.
I came across an article about cloud pruning (Niwaki) of evergreen shrubs aimed at providing some structure to the garden during winter. This technique originated in Japan and has become more popular recently, offering a slightly alternative type of topiary. It can be very effective in producing elegant forms, and is best applied to small leaved varieties with interesting branch formations, such as box, yew, pine, Japanese holly, (ilex crenata) and Japanese privet, (Lingustrum Japonicum), amongst others.
Have you been fortunate enough to see – or hear - a hedgehog in your garden this year? When we moved to Gloucestershire over 20 years ago, we would often hear the noise of hedgehogs at night. Today, sadly, the hedgehogs no longer visit our garden and I wonder why? Hopefully, we will gain an insight into the problems faced by these remarkable creatures from John Crowther who will talk about ‘the Plight of the Hedgehog’ at our next meeting on Tuesday 17th December. We meet at 2.15 for a 2.30 pm start, at the Hub, Tobacconist Road and after the talk, we will enjoy some seasonal refreshments.
Whilst perched up a ladder with loppers, reducing the size of the crab apple tree, (pruning would imply some method or plan), a grey shape sped over my left shoulder and disappeared through the gap between the two holly trees in the hedge. I glimpsed it for less than half a second, swift, silent and stealthy, a sparrowhawk in hunting mode.
We also reduced the bay tree to a sensible size, and sorted the compost heaps. But had time for tea outside, making the most of the last warm days of summer at the end of September. A humming bird hawk moth was also making the most of the salvia flowers, which have recovered nicely from the dead-heading it received during August. Watching the moth delicately extract nectar from the flower, it’s clear that it doesn’t do much pollinating.
Many of the roses seemed to be infested with caterpillars this summer, which was unusual. And rather than spray, I had hoped that the birds might eat them, but no such luck. However, I expect they will enjoy the holly berries, which are looking great at the moment, but will be much thinner by Christmas.
With the winter on its way, it’s time to lift any tender plants and store them in a greenhouse or shed with some frost protection. Generally, it’s the combination of cold and wet that plants struggle with, so a cloche over those left outside would protect against the worst of the weather.
The pots of lilies have been emptied into a wheelbarrow to extract the bulbs and ensure they are clean from lily beetle grubs before repotting in fresh compost. Other tasks are to apply grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees, rake fallen leaves from the lawn and tidy the herbaceous border, though some dead stems could be left for over-wintering insects.
Dusk on the 28th November offers the interesting spectacle of Venus, Jupiter and a 2 day old moon in close alignment, but they will be close to the horizon, setting not long after the sun.