Category: Spring


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.

 

The country lanes around where I live are full of this plant at the moment. It’s called Cow Parsley because its’ leaves look like that of the herb parsley and it grows on the edge of fields Or it’s called Queen Anne’s Lace because of the lacy look of its’ flowers. And I’ve heard it called Mother Die and is considered an unlucky plant to cut and bring into the house. Your mother might die!

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And these are Ox Eye Daisies or, sometimes, Dog Daisies. I think they always look like a child’s drawing of what a flower should be. One of my favourite wildflowers. 

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Some more pictures from my little wander through the late spring, early summer lanes near my home. Rhodendedrons are not a native plant. Victorian plant collectors brought them from the Himalayas and the mountains of China. Some people wish they had left them there. They were put into the gardens and the estates of the rich and they do look great if you have a garden the size of the Chatsworth Estate (that’s the one owned by the Duke of Devonshire, not the one in Shameless). In a suburban garden they can swamp the space. They seed freely and have found the UK climate much to their taste and have escaped into the countryside at large. They look wonderful, with their spectacular flowers in shades of white, pink, red, purple and yellow, for two weeks of the year but their thick, dark green leaves cast so much shadow that nothing can grow underneath and they crowd out native species. They have run rampant across mountainsides in North Wales and we are busy trying to eliminate them. Not an easy job when you have the whole of Snowdonia to weed. But the flowers do look spectacular and the bees love them.

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A drone was hovering over me. I came across the guys operating it. It was a very impressive piece of kit. They were using it to take some video for the opening credits of a new TV programme.

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You don’t have to go to South America to find orchids. We have these pretty Field Orchids that seemed to be having a good year. 

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And this is Ragged Robin, a quite rare wildflower which is also growing in substantial clumps near our home.

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Just some pictures of some Azaleas in a bed outside our office. Azaleas are out all over the city at the moment in their vibrant reds and hot pinks. I took them while I was looking for a missing colleague. She’s been a bit of a parcel being passed from one department to another. Her work ethic is debatable. She has a lot of time off and when she’s actually in the building she’s pretty hard to pin down. She seems to be playing some game with the company. We think she’s trying to push the company to sack her and then she can have access to all kinds of redundancy packages. The company knows this and isn’t playing the game. They keep finding her new roles in different departments. And it’s our turn it seems. She went AWOL this morning for two and a half hours even though we had gone through what she should do in that time. Eventually she turned up and claimed that no one had trained her on the procedures. This is c**p. She was told in detail and what she was expected to do wasn’t exactly rocket science. I’m keeping an eye on this person and am noting down every incident that occurs, getting it checked by a trusted colleague and signed by both of us. There will be a Judgement Day.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the Azaleas…

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Having a catch up on pictures. On Monday I had to go over to the Warrington office on the Birchwood Science Park. It’s a pleasant place to visit as the buildings are set in parkland with lots of trees and flowers, streams and ponds.

The park has  had a role in a big enquiry for the last two years, the Hillsborough Enquiry. Many years ago, in 1989, Liverpool FC played an important football game against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Far too many people were let into a certain part of the ground where there was a fence cutting the stands off from the playing area. A terrible crush happened with the people already in the ground being squashed up against the fence. 96 people, mostly from Liverpool, died when they couldn’t get onto the playing area. The design of stadiums was changed as a result of this disaster. There was an enquiry at the time that blamed the Liverpool fans for the disaster. Liverpool has never accepted this as the testimonies of the people there were at odds with the official account. It took 25 years to get a new enquiry set up and the court was built especially in one of the office blocks at Birchwood. The results of the enquiry have just been reached and the fans have been exonerated and the blame is now firmly with the South Yorkshire Police some of whom covered up (that’s a polite way of putting it) the truth. We are now waiting to see what will happen to the police involved. 

Here are some pictures of people enjoying the sunshine around the lake near the restaurant block. And I was able to go and check on a house I have an interest in not far from here. We’ve had a few warm, verging on hot, sunny days and it’s caused all the trees to come into their green. 

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Tulips. Tulips don’t seem to like it in our garden. They don’t mind the cold of a Manchester winter, indeed they need a cold spell to jolt them into growth. But the garden can be damp in places and they hate sitting about in wet soil. We have planted them in the past and they just disappear. But we have found that they like it in pots. They can stay moist but not have to sit in soggy earth. They do well. These are called Queen of the Night, named, I think, after the character in the Mozart opera, ‘The Magic Flute.’ They are this beautiful dark purple, heading towards black, colour. I planted them three seasons ago and they keep coming back year after year.

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Not tulips. I spotted these in a neighbour’s garden. I’ve never seen them before and Jan had no idea what they were either. She’d seen them somewhere, bought and planted them and lost the package. I loved the blue, star shaped flowers. Well I tweeted these pictures and within an hour people had got back with the name. They are called Cammasia. They are a native of North America, especially the Pacific states of Washington and Oregon. They grow from a bulb and they like a damp, cool climate so they are happy in Manchester. Seattle, Portland and Manchester ‘enjoy’ a similar climate. I will get some for our garden to plant in the autumn.

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The pink cherry trees around Manchester Cathedral aren’t having it their own way. Over in St. Peter’s Square (part sublime sqaure, part building site at present) the purple flowering Paulownia trees are giving them a run for their money. They were planted in winter 2014 and bloomed for the first time last spring. People were delighted with the depth of the colour. They’ve settled in well, grown a little and have more flowers this year. In a couple of years time they will look spectacular. Established trees are smothered in their lilac flowers at this time of year. 

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Paulownia trees are from China where they are also called Princess or Empress Trees. They are fast growing and the story is that one is planted when a baby girl in born. When she gets married it is cut down and its wood is used to build furniture for her new home. Today they go to IKEA I suspect. These trees can be a pest. Where they have been imported from China they can spread as they set seed easily. This has happened in the eastern states of the USA. But I can’t see this colony of trees in heavily urbanised central Manchester getting out of hand here. But I would like to pick up some seeds and see if I could get one going in our garden. It’s been a beautifully warm and sunny day with a beautifully blue sky over the city. The Greek temple building is the front of Manchester Art Gallery

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Here are some more of the trees in front of No. 2 St. Peter’s Square which is shooting up with the steel superstructure growing daily. I’m looking forward to seeing the cladding going up, especially the side elevation which will reflect the stone tracery on the Town Hall Extension on the other side of the square. We are very excited by this entire area and how it’s developing.

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The lilac flowers look great against the white stone of No. 1 St. Peter’s Square and the curve of Peter House on Oxford Street.

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And they look good against the dazzlingly white Portland stone of Central Library. Possibly my favourite building in the city and it has a lot of competition.

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And I also, surprisingly, like the colour of the flowers against the terracotta tiles and bricks of the Midland Hotel.

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A little arty shot of the trees and the ‘Adrift’ statue that has wandered about the city for the best part of a 100 years but, finally, seems to have come to rest outside the library facing the Midland Hotel.

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May in the UK always brings the flowering trees to their peak. At the moment the pink cherry blossom trees are centre stage and stealing the show. These trees are in the gardens surrounding Manchester Cathedral. The pink looks wonderful against the blue of the sky and the honey coloured sandstone of the surrounding buildings. Sadly these flowers are infertile so no perfume or cherries later in the year. Bees, attracted by the pink, blousey flowers leave disappointed. But the flowers are beautiful.

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The work done in our local park has opened up some of the quieter paths that had got overgrown and felt a little dangerous at times. Now they sort of invite you to explore as they originally intended but I’d still be keeping myself aware of what’s going on and who’s about when using them. It might look like the depths of the countryside but we are in a big city. And when you live in a big city, even a relatively safe one like Manchester, it’s good to keep aware.

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Over the Easter holiday, I think some of the local kids had been in here and we’re having fun building a ‘den’ for themselves. They’re back at school now so construction is on hold I suspect. Building work going on all over Manchester these days.

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Yesterday was a bad day for Manchester. Something went wrong with the computers controlling the tram system and it all ground to a halt across the entire city. It went on for hours. The trams trapped in the city centre were lined up along some of the main streets which meant buses and cars couldn’t get through. All the people who use the system either packed themselves onto buses and trains or used the car. It was chaos. They did sort out the computer just before the evening rush hour but all the trams were in the wrong place and that caused more problems. Metrolink told people not to travel in the rush hour. Lots stayed on in the city centre and the restaurants and bars had a bumper Tuesday evening. 

I struggled home. It was a long day. Later that evening I got permission to work from home today just in case everything kicked off again this morning. Fortunately, it didn’t. The problem with working from home is everyone else thinks you have the day off and it was decided I could sort out dinner ‘as I was having a day off.’ So I got up early and did the work that I had planned to do and that left me with the afternoon free. Result! I decided on making a Sausage Casserole. It’s tasty, quick and easy. We didn’t have all the ingredients so I decided to shop local and walked up to the village to pick up the missing things. It was cool but sunny.

The walk takes me through a park. It was planted up in the 1980s. The idea was that it would be partly a piece of the old English wild wood. They planted native trees and surrounded them by native shrubs. They grew well but of late it’s become a bit of a problem. It would be easier to walk on the floor of the Brazilian rainforest than cross an English wood. The shrubs have grown so much that you don’t appreciate the trees among them and they have squeezed out all the kind of plants that live on the forest floor. On top of that, the park itself has become a bit of a no go area as there are lots of dark, quiet areas which are quite threatening at certain times of day. People have been avoiding the area which is a shame.

So what they have done is radically cut back the shrub layer. We can now see the trees and a lot of the little plants that were being crowded out are recolonising the park. And it felt a lot safer today as well. Runners and dog walkers everywhere as well as guys picking stuff up for dinner.

Here’s what I spotted. Some native English Bluebells with their curved spike of smaller flowers….

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Some Cowslips, which are a relative to the Primroses that we have been enjoying…

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The humble Daisy is always a welcome sight…

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Some violets…

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I spotted some tiny Geranium flowers…

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And these are a species of Wild Garlic, if you rub the leaves you get the smell of strong garlic… 

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