Category: Nature


It’s the Spring equinox today, the sun is directly over the Equator and, here in the UK, we will have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. From now on the days will lengthen as we head to mid summer’s day. Next weekend the clocks go forward and we will have light evenings as well.

So today is the first day of Spring. BBC Radio 4 have been marking the equinox by inserting poems with a spring theme into their regular programmes. I like that I live in a country where they read poems to us. Can’t see it happening anywhere else. The morning news programme, Today, inserted this classic Spring poem by William Wordworth into all the news about Brexit and Trump. A welcome relief.

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

Being England, the weather didn’t get the memo about it being Spring and it poured down all morning. But by lunchtime the sun had come out. I persuaded my little team at the office that we needed to get out for a while; we could walk and talk and sort a few things out. And we did that. Honestly! But it did give me a chance to take some pictures of all the daffodils that grow in the park that surrounds our offices. They are at their best at the moment. These aren’t the wild ones that Wordsworth would have seen by the lake near his home in the Lake District. They are modern cultivars that we have developed for our gardens but they still look very fine under the bare trees. In a few weeks the leaves will come out and the daffodils will have faded for another year so it’s important to enjoy them when we can. We had a word with one of the gardeners. There are only three of them but they have a huge area of parkland and gardens to keep in good shape. This they do very well.

Here are some pictures I took while ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ this afternoon.

I also spotted some primroses.

 

We’re on top of stuff at work and it is a quiet time of year. After all the tumult of 2016 we are getting used to the new realities of life and, hopefully, moving on. It’s going to be a number of years, though, until we sail into calmer waters of course. And we’re not sure how the outcome of the American elections will affect things, but the entire planet is in that boat.

Our little department decided to go out for a ‘working breakfast.’ I did suggest a ‘prayer breakfast’ but one of the team declined that offer. In fact what she said was ‘f**k off!’ We wear our religion lightly in the UK. We headed for a restaurant in the centre of the office park where our offices are. There’s a nice little lake there where people like to sit on warm days. It attracts water birds including these Canada Geese. They were introduced to the country to grace the lakes of large country estates. Having wings and a tendency to roam, they have found the UK to their liking and are found all over the place now. They are noisy and big and these ones are quiet used to people and can be a bit persistent if you are eating your sandwiches in the sunshine. Maybe, under Brexit, we can have them declared illegal immigrants and ship them back to Canada. They were stealing bread from British ducks today.

Here are some British Ducks who are having their bread stolen.

Near the lake is the Fun Hut. It was locked today but on warm, sunny days they open it and out come the deck chairs. They also have footballs, rugby balls and other toys that we can use on the lawns around the lake. It’s mostly guys who like to play in their lunch hours. A fun idea we think.

I quite like a game of Table Tennis when the Fun Hut is open. In spite of the sunshine it was still pretty chilly though.

Spring is stirring. This is a good thing. The central reservation of the road near the offices is full of these little, yellow crocuses.

And there are some early daffodils. Last year I noticed these were in bloom on Boxing Day (26th December) but have only just come out now in their, more usual, early February. We must have had a colder winter than last year.

We needed some more coffee capsules for the Nespresso machine. We got some of the usual ones and tried a couple of the flavoured and the limited edition ones. I like the ones flavoured with vanilla or caramel. We hide those for personal use. No one knows we have them. We are bad.

I was a bit irritated on Friday night to discover that work had downloaded a lot more work to me than I had expected. True, I have to the end of the month to do it but I’d already worked out my daily schedule and to keep to it I’d have to do a bit more almost straight away to keep me on track. So I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning (6am) and by 11am I’d caught up. Go me! I then fired off an email saying that I expected this extra, unexpected work to be reflected in my Christmas bonus. Always good to do this sort of thing from a position of power I think.

Having caught up I was able to get out and about and do a few things I needed to do in Chorlton and Altrincham. Nothing onerous, just organising a few things for Christmas. I had a bit of a wander around Chorlton to see what was going on and see if there was anything that would be of use over Christmas. On Beech Road I like to check out the ‘A’ boards outside Launderette, the restaurant/café bar that has been put in what used to be a public lauderette. They are always witty. Here’s yesterday’s offering. They didn’t disappoint.

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There was a sign on the gate into Beech Park.

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I had Beech Park all to myself this morning. The weather wasn’t brilliant and people were busy on the Saturday morning errands. The park still looked lovely as the Copper Beech trees are taking on their autumn colour. It’s a shame there wasn’t some sunshine. That really brings out the colour which looks wonderful against a blue sky.

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This sign was on the gate to the children’s playground. Adults seem to want to keep the kids and dogs apart. I bet the kids and dogs would have a great time together.

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These trees are maple trees, they are in Hardman Square in the heart of Spinninfields. They are related to the sycamore trees that line suburban streets in the leafy suburbs of English cities and the countryside alike. When I was little I liked collecting sycamore seeds. They come in pairs and if you split them and throw them in the air, they twirl like helicopters. Good fun. I like sycamores but they do seed freely and some people regard them as the weed of the tree world. A bit harsh I think. Sycamores turn a golden yellow in Autumn while these maples go this beautiful red.

They look good against the concrete, steel and glass of the corporate buildings of Spinningfields. In one of the pictures you can see the latest tower, No 1 Spinningfields, reaching its full height. And the blue glass cladding is creeping up the tower daily.

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The area in front of the tower is off limits to us at the moment. This is a shame as it’s become a popular open space with lawns, seats, cafés and bars. It’s where the open air cinema is in summer and where we watch Wimbledon and the cricket. In winter it’s transformed into Manchester’s Christmas ice rink giving the city a little of the vibe I saw when we were lucky enough to visit the Rockerfeller Centre in New York City one Christmas. The company that have developed Spinningfields, Allied London, have a reputation for looking after the public realm around their buildings. You know when you are on their land when the litter and chewing gum stops. This bodes well for their other projects in Manchester, the massive St John’s development and the London Road Fire Station project. It contrasts with the perpetual running sore that is Piccadilly Gardens. That area is cut off AGAIN while they try and sort it out. By ‘sort it out’ they are repeating the same old solutions that have failed many times in the past. If I had my way I’d GIVE Allied London Piccadilly Gardens and let them run with it.

Once No 1 Spinningfields is finished (2017 I believe), Allied London are going to refurbish Hardaman Square with lawns, seating, flowers, cafés, bars and trees. I hope the maples are kept. Here are some pictures of what they are planning.

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Just a few pictures of the last summer flowers in the planting on Angel Square contrasting with the modern architecture of the Co Op HQ building and the CIS Tower. We have Yellow Coneflowers…

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And Japanese Anemones…

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And, lastly, Echinacea…

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These tiny gardens around some of the trees on busy Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton are always a pleasure to see. And typical of The Chorlton vibe. The guy in the picture looks after them but someone else, one of his neighbours, plants them out. In spite of being on a busy road, they suffer little damage. Most people are very respectful of them and enjoy them. I say ‘most’ because the guy who looks after them told me that, occasionally, he comes out and finds that one of the sunflower heads has been decapitated in the night, probably he thought, by some drunk on the way home from some bar.

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I love the colour of these sunflowers. I must plant some up next year. They are usually yellow but these have an autumnal, rust colour that reminds me that summer is coming to a close and in a few weeks it will be Autumn. I do like Autumn and the run up to Christmas but it’s sad to say goodbye to Summer.

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Manchester isn’t known for its hot climate. Considerably closer to the North Pole than the Equator, we consider ourself lucky to have the odd sunny day. Indeed, we are advised to take Vitamin D in the winter as we don’t get enough. The sun helps us produce our own supply apparently and we don’t see it very much in the winter. It’s amazing we haven’t all got rickets. 

We are restricted in what we can grow as well. Plants that do well in London, 200 miles to the south on the dry, east coast, don’t thrive in Manchester. But you might be surprised what we can grow, given a little tender loving care.

Yesterday I called in on the Post Box Café in Chorlton. I went in for breakfast and coffee. My Dig The City Garden is still here on the terrace. It changes with the seasons. I’m not concerned that it doesn’t look like it did in St. Ann’s Square last year, I like to see how it develops.

Pete, who helped with my garden and is very into tropical plants, has planted it up for the summer with bananas! They will never fruit this far north, summer just isn’t hot and long enough. But with regular feeding and watering the leaves do look spectaucular. When there is a danger of frost, Pete will have to take them back to his house and put them into his heated glasshouses to get them through the winter. I’ve only seen bananas growing twice before, once on a trip to Egypt where they like the Nile Valley and the other time was in a garden in the French Quarter of New Orleans. And now here in Chorlton. 

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He’s planted around the bananas with tropically coloured inspired planting.

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A new park/square/plaza is about to be created between Manchester Cathedral, Chetham’s School of Music and the River Irwell on what was Victoria Street. They’ve been trying to do this for decades in various guises but at last they are getting it sorted out. At present there are these raised beds created from railway sleepers straight onto Victoria Street creating a temporary garden in front of the cathedral. These are a great idea if you have limited space and no viable soil where you live. Two things though. One, when they start to create the new space I hope they move these gardens to somewhere else in the city that needs a bit of green. And, two, I hope the quality of the new space will be as high as the new St. Peter’s Square near Central Library.

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Ragwort is a plant that is all over the place at the moment. I like it but farmers don’t as it can be toxic to horses and cattle causing chirrosis of the liver in them. Much like gin does for people. On the positive side, Wikipedia tells me it is home and food for 77 species of creatures and forms part of the diet of 22 more. I just like its starry, yellow flowers.

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From a distance I thought the above was the a flower from a thistle. When I got closer I saw that it was Common Knapweed which has a similar flower but not the spiked leaves. It was alive with bees and butterflies, both of which use it as a food source at this time of year. The warm sunshine had brought both out in huge numbers which was good to see. The bees stayed still enough, for long enough for me to take these pictures with my phone. The butterflies were a lot less cooperative. 

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A couple of posts ago I took my car in for a service and to have my brakes done. It all went well and didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. The place I go I trust and it’s your typical car mechanics shop smelling of hot oil and run by guys who seem to be covered in varying amounts of oil as well. It’s not a place of beauty though. You don’t go there to admire the view.

This week is the week that people flock to Tatton Park, south of the city in the Cheshire countryside, to admire the gardens at the last of the year’s Royal Horticultural Society big shows, RHS Tatton. Some of the guys who I got to meet at Dig The City last year have a garden there. I was just an amateur having a bit of fun at Dig The City but they are professionals and a good medal from an organisation as august as the RHS can do wonders for their business. 

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Bringing these two thoughts together I found myself in Lower Stretton, south of Warrington, yesterday to pick some tickets up for a gin tasting they are doing at The Hollies Farm Shop, just outside the village. I came across the Ring O’ Bells Service Centre where the locals presumably go to have their cars fixed. I loved the garden that they had set up along the road side. With its clashing colours and weird combinations of plants, not to mention the random objects among the planting; it may not be in the running for  medal at RHS Tatton but it certainly made me smile.

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