Archive | April 2017

Plants in cages

The problem with sharing your garden with a host of wildlife is that quite a lot of it is intent on eating all my plants!

 

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Rabbits seem to like to have a nibble at anything new, and if they like it, they will eat the lot. But plants that have been sampled one year (and survived) seem to be less likely to be nibbled the next. Maybe it is the rich lush tasty foliage that the plants grow while in the nursery greenhouses that they like, and the tougher, garden-grown leaves are less appealing.

The solution therefore seem to be to protect anything remotely juicy for at least its first season. I have a couple of old hanging baskets that are ideal for this.

 

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These Tanacetum ‘Robinson’s Red’ should give a display of big daisies in the summer, but only if the rabbits leave them alone. If they get nibbled more, then I will upgrade the protection to the next stage…

 

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This Rhododendron ‘Blue Tit’ is not supposed to be attractive to rabbits or deer, but the last little rhododendron that I planted in this spot was eaten to the ground! So I am taking no chances with this one, and it has a cage of chicken wire, with a few wires criss-crossing the top to deter deer. It shouldn’t outgrow this cage for a couple of years, by which time it should be less tasty.

For bigger shrubs, I am having to build bigger cages.

 

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I treated myself to a lovely Magnolia ‘Susan’, and do not want it eaten, as it wasn’t cheap. So it has a 5 ft cage of deer netting to protect it for a few years. The netting needs to be at least 5 foot, and preferably 6ft, as the deer we have are not just little muntjac, or medium sized roe deer. No, we get the big ones, the red deer.

 

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They have not been seen in the garden quite as often this year as last year, and I think our increasing activity levels in the garden puts them off. But after 4 days away last week, we returned to find three sitting in the middle of the lawn.

The ultimate solution, which we are using to keep them off the veggies and fruit, is a Big Fence…

 

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They aren’t going to get into there! We haven’t managed to get all of the potager dug yet this year, but as we get a section cleared of the grass and roots and stones, we sow seeds. And we now have radishes, beets, mangetout, spinach and leeks all sprouting. It is very exciting!

 

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Trees are yet another problem. We have standard tree guards around some small native trees and shrubs, but as soon as they poke their heads above the guards, then they run the risk of being eaten.

 

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This little rowan had nice tall shoots before the deers’ visit last week, and now it has been eaten down to the guard. So we need a better solution, which might be to make cages like the shrub cages. It does make planting trees very costly.

My next challenge is to find a solution to slugs. We don’t use pellets, and hand-picking takes too long. I have tried some barrier methods with varying success, but currently I am just avoiding buying certain plants, such as hostas (obviously), delphiniums, lupins, and aubrieta.

Gardening here is a bit of a battle!

 

An unusual egg hunt

With the family staying for Easter, we set off along the coast path from Mortehoe to Rockham Beach.

 

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This is a secluded beach on the north coast of North Devon, reached by a decent walk and a huge set of steps, so it is usually pretty quiet.

 

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We explored the rockpools and found some eggs – not Easter eggs, unfortunately, but fish eggcases, which is much more interesting (if a lot less tasty!).

 

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This long one with the tendrils attached to the four corners (and some seaweed as well) is a Nursehound eggcase – a spotty dogfish.

 

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Whereas this squarer one with the long horns is some sort of Ray, I believe. Apparently the size helps with the identification, and we didn’t measure it, so I am not sure what species it is. It was good to see them though – proof that these fish are alive and breeding in local waters. There are remains of a very rusted old wreck on the beach – must look it up and see what ship it was.

 

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After the long climb back up the steps, we continued round the coast path towards Bull Point, enjoying the strong scent of coconut coming from the gorse flowers.

 

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Coast paths are rarely level, especially in Devon, so there were plenty more steps…

 

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Once past the point we turned inland up a gentle valley, with grassy fields dotted with primroses.

 

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Birds such as wrens, chiffchaffs and a garden warbler were singing in the trees.

 

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At the end of a valley full of spring flowers, with celandines and bluebells carpeting the floor, the path wound up back to the roads above, and we returned to Mortehoe.

 

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Come on a day trip to Lundy

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There is great excitement in our house as it is the start of the Lundy day-trip season. In the winter, the island is served by helicopters, and day-trips are not allowed. But from now until the end of October, the Oldenburg, Lundy’s own ship, sails three times a week, giving lots of opportunities for a fabulous day out.

Based in Bideford, she often sails from Ilfracombe, where she can sail whatever the tide, but leaving at 10am and returning by 6pm gives you only 3 1/2 hours on the island. When she sails from Bideford, she has to sail on the high tide to clear the sand bar at the end of the Taw / Torridge Estuary, so you often get a much longer day trip.

Saturday was forecast pretty fair, with a ‘slight’ sea, and the sailing schedule promised a whopping 7 hours on the island, so we left at 7.30am for the short drive to Bideford, arriving in plenty of time for the recommended 8am check in time.

9am

With about 150 passengers on board, some day-trippers like ourselves, and some staying for a few days in one of the 23 properties, we set sail on time, and in a bit of drizzle. That soon cleared and we had a lovely 2 hour crossing, watching out for seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, shearwaters, gannets, and kittiwakes. No dolphins this time, but they are sometimes seen.

11am

Down the gangway and onto the jetty, and finally we were back on Lundy for the first time since September. Shedding layers of warm clothing that keep one comfortable on the boat, we slowly climbed up the steep beach road, pausing often to take in the wonderful views down the island.

Most people head straight for the village, but we prefer to get walking, so we took the gateway that leads along the lower east side path.

 

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Winding its way along the gentle slope of the east side, this path is often sheltered from the prevailing winds, and can be a good place to find migrant birds sheltering, as well as the sika deer.  There are few trees on the island, and all are on this gentler coast. Even here they are sculpted by the wind.

 

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We followed the path as it clings to the slope, passing through copses of trees and shrubs that nestle in the sheltered valleys. Pausing frequently to watch the chiffchaffs and willow warblers feeding, we didn’t rush, just enjoying the beautiful day. We found a herd of 29 deer, including a couple of young stags, and some of last years youngsters.

12noon

The path brought us out onto the terraces, which are the remains of old granite workings. Quarries dot the side of the island, and a railway ran along the flat terrace to transport the rock. We found a comfortable flat rock, and stopped for a picnic lunch.

 

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1pm

Continuing up the terraces, we found a male black redstart hopping around in the bushes in one of the quarries. An occasional spring visitor, it was a nice highlight of the birding.

 

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1.30pm

At the end of the terraces you can curve back up onto the top of the island, but we chose to continue down the east side. We only saw one other couple all the time we were on the east side, so it shows how peaceful it can be compared to some of the more popular spots on the island.

 

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This coast is also an excellent place to see the grey seals that live and breed on Lundy, and we counted 24 during the day.

 

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2.15pm

The path leads to Gannets Combe, a deep valley that separated the southern body of the island from the more rugged North End. We didn’t have time to carry on to the North, so we headed inland.

 

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2.30pm

The island is about 3 miles long but a maximum of 1/2 mile wide, so it doesn’t take long to cross the flat top to the other side. The west is much steeper and rockier than the east, and often much windier as well. We found a spot with a view, and stopped for a drink and a snack.

 

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Walking south now down the broad grassy paths on top of the west side , we passed an old mill stone, a reminder that people have lived on Lundy for a very long time, and there are many archaeological finds for those interested in history.

 

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There is always plenty to see on Lundy, and we found flocks of the wild soay sheep, a few of the feral goats, and these two Lundy ponies.

 

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3pm

We made it to Jenny’s cove, the most famous seabird colony on the west side, and sat down to watch the guillemots flying onto and off the breeding ledges. There were plenty of razorbills in rafts on the water, and we were lucky enough to see a few puffins too. It is still early in the year for puffins, and they will arrive in increasing numbers over the next few weeks.

 

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4pm

Continuing back down the west side of the island, we passed through the jumbled rocks of the ‘earthquake’, and could soon see the tower of the Old Light, which marks the start of the southern end of the island.

 

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The southern end is a working farm, and the sheep have just started lambing.

 

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The Old Light was built on the top of the island to keep shipping away from Lundy’s treacherous rocks, but when it was finished they realised that it was so often fog bound as to be useless. Two new lighthouses were built lower down on the northern and southern tips, and the Old Light was retired. Now it forms two pleasant holiday cottages in the main building, and everyone is welcome to climb the tower and relax in the pair of deckchairs inside the lantern.

 

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We headed back through the fields towards the village, where we had some much-needed refreshment in the Marisco Tavern.

 

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5.40pm

Sadly it was time to head back down the valley to the jetty to rejoin the Oldenburg at 6pm for the return journey. The weather was absolutely glorious for 1st April, and we were able to cover a large part of the coastline during the day, so we had thoroughly enjoyed our day.

 

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6.30pm

with everyone safely aboard we set sail for the return crossing to Bideford. As we sailed, the sun sank behind us, streaking the sky with pinks and oranges.

 

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8.30pm

Back on the quayside at Bideford after an uneventful but chilly journey, we headed to the fish and chip shop for the traditional post-crossing dinner, before heading home. It was a perfect Lundy day out.