Category: Spring

I just thought I’d share some of the Azaleas that are in bloom in our garden. After all the yellow, purple and white of Spring, it’s good to see the vibrant, sherbet colours of Azaleas. They are cousins to Rhododendrons but are more compact so are perfect for small gardens. And they are happy in pots so you can move them around to where you would like them. They are quite slow growing so they don’t get out of hand. Rhododendrons look great for about two weeks but swamp everything else out and all you get for the rest of the year is large, waxy leaves. Nothing will grow under them and they don’t support lots of creatures. Unless you have a garden the size of Chatsworth and an army of gardeners to keep them in order avoid them. Azaleas rock. I must get more.

Nothing to do with Azaleas but I thought I’d share these ‘A’ boards that came my way. I love a good ‘A’ board. Here’s one with food for thought…

And this one is very clever, you have to be in the know to get this one… 

However you mark it, in church or in an overindulgence in chocolate eggs, or just by having a relaxing couple of days with family and friends, have a good Easter. This time last year things were a bit frantic in our home. We have sailed into calmer waters now so I decided to decorate the wooden ducks for the season and fill vases with spring flowers. Enjoy…

We’ve had an unseasonably warm weekend in the UK. It got to 25/78 in Cambridge apparently. While not quite as hot as that in Manchester it did top 21/70 in the city tempting guys out in shorts and women in summer frocks for the first time this year. It’s not going to be as warm this week, as we go back to work, but still pleasant.

The warmth has brought out the blousey, pink cherry blossom all over the city. It’s always a pleasure to see this. I feel quite Japanese in my anticipation of this event. I virtually had to queue with the tourists to take pictures of the cherry blossom around the Cathedral. The blossom is at its peak at the moment. It’s a pity it has no perfume. And I don’t think there’s anything in it for the bees either. Still, it looks wonderful.

Here’s a picture of a corner of Manchester Cathedral in 1942. It was bombed badly by the Luftwaffe just before Chrsitmas 1941. The part you can see is in ruins, so was the rest. It was the second most damaged cathedral in the country after Coventry Cathedral and that was levelled in a particularly vicious raid on that city that eradicated the wooden frames medieval city for ever. A great loss apparently. We are lucky that Manchetser Cathedral survived. The problem was its position, within minutes walk of two of the city’s railway stations, Exchange and Victoria. You can see the ruins of Exchange Station across the river from the cathedral.

I tried to take this picture from the same spot. This is as close as I could get to it. Part of the gardens around the cathedral were cut off. They were putting on an Easter Passion Play and there were fences keeping me out. The passion play hasn’t been without controversy. Someone came up with the idea of giving people a ‘Jesus’ experience by offering to crucify them on the cross used in the play. In the end that didn’t happen. In my picture you can see the cathedral totally restored (the war damaged organ has been replaced with a new one and will be officially heard for the first time this Easter weekend) and Exchange Station has been replaced by glass apartments and offices. 

I spent a pleasant time, this morning, setting up a display of Easter plants at ASDA. It’s only a small display at the moment but will grow as the week goes on and will be joined by Easter bouquets of flowers for people to decorate their homes and give as gifts over the Easter weekend.

I’m not sure how giving flowers and plants remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But Easter is a corruption of the word, Eostre, which was the name given to the pagan Anglo Saxon/Viking celebration of the Spring, when people celebrated the return to life of the Earth. Giving flowers and plants and eggs makes a lot more sense then. I suppose the ancient Christians just tried to graft their Christian traditions onto the pagan festival like they did with Christmas. And we are still following the traditions today in ways that would have been recognised by the ancient pagans. 

ASDA do some nice things though.

I’m not sure how many acres of parkland there are around our offices on the business park where we are located, but it must be a lot. Only three guys look after it but it always looks immaculate. Some of it is little patches of woodland that was here before the offices were built. Some is lawn which is easy to manage on one of those fun sit on mowers. A lot of the planting is the kind that is easy to manage shrubs and plants that need to be pruned annually or bulbs, like the daffodils, that come back year after year. It looks impressive but it is designed to be low maintenance.

But there are a few places where they have planted areas up with bright annuals that need to be replaced every year or two or three times in the season. One area is outside Chadwick House. Chadwick House is one of the original office blocks on the park. I think it dates back to the 60s or even the 50s. It was one of the buildings that was used by the Atomic Energy Corporation. They are still here looking after the country’s atomic energy industry. Their presence has attracted the other hi-tech companies that have moved here. Considering it’s a mid 20th century building, it’s not a bad one.

There’s a flower bed that has been planted up outside it. It’s a sea of purple pansies that really stands out against the green of the rest of the park. There are purple/red cordylines in there as well. We like these, they look tropical but are actually from the warmer parts of New Zealand. That can be a problem as, if we have a severe winter, they get killed off. The warmer winters have encouraged us to plant these kinds of plants. Then we have an old fashioned, bitter winter and they bite the dust. We lost all our Agapanthus back in 2010 like that. The cordylines have survived this winter though.

The carpet of purple was spoiled by just one lilac one that crept in.

Outside Chadwick House there are these two statues. I’m not sure what they represent. I think they’ve been there since the building was put up. Maybe something to do with the atomic industry? They have that brutalist look of 1960s architecture. They are also sitting in carpets of bi-coloured, purple and yellow pansies.

One of the little stores in the tiny mall in Culcheth, to the west of the city, has set up a little incubator and put some hen’s eggs into it. People have been able to watch them hatch and see the little chicks develop. I missed any of the chicks breaking out of their eggs. I remember watching it happen when I was in primary school and a magical moment it was too. The new chicks do look very tired and bedraggled but they very quickly develop into these little, confident, fluffy chicks. I had to elbow a couple of pre-schoolers out of the way to get these pictures. Kidding…but I did have to wait my turn behind the pre-schoolers to get them.

This is the lake on our office park. On warm days it’s nice to sit out by it and have lunch or an informal meeting. Even on cool days it’s nice to walk to and around. It’s the home to some ducks and Canada Geese but we are banned from feeding the gulls that come looking for lunch leftovers. Gulls are big and fearless and have been known not to wait until you have discarded your lunch before helping themselves to it. I once lost most of a Marks & Spencer’s sandwich on Llandudno beach to one. It took it straight out of my hand swooping down from behind me. The first thing I knew was this huge, feathery thing inches from my face. I’ve always been wary of gulls since. And the swans in the harbour at Bowness on Windermere are best avoided as well. They don’t look that big on the water but, out of it, they can tower over your average 7 year old boy and their wingspan is enormous.

At the moment the edge of the lake is ringed with the bright, yellow flowers of the Marsh Marigold. Not a relative to the garden marigolds we plant in our gardens for summer, but it does have similar looking golden flowers. It likes to live in the shallow water on the edge of clean ponds and lakes like this one. You can see the sword like leaves of the water iris coming through as well.

Also the Gunnera is beginning to show. Over the summer it will grow taller and taller and produce these huge leaves and long flower spikes. It has thick stems with vicious looking thorns. Some people love it but it’s not for your smaller garden. I always imagine that dinosaurs walked among it and maybe snacked in the leaves. It has a very primeval look to it. 

After my wandering about yesterday I was back in the office. But we are still having warm, sunny weather and it’s nice to get out with my team, have a wander and talk about stuff. You don’t have to be chained to a desk to be working and ‘blue sky thinking’ is better achieved under actual blue skies I think.

It also gave me the opportunity to see what was growing in the parklands around the office. I found this Gorse plant covered in acid yellow flowers. There are so many that you can’t see the stems or, indeed, the nasty spikes that stick out of them. They say that ‘when the Gorse isn’t in flower, kissing is out of fashion.’ The thing is that you can always find a few of these yellow flowers on a Gorse plant in any month, even in the depth of winter. But, it seems, April in England is a great time and place to do some kissing. The bees were enjoying the flowers. I think it’s a member of the pea family, the flowers are very similar to those you sea on pea plants.

And the white cherry blossom is out everywhere as well. It’s the native cherry tree and will provide lots of cherries for the birds later on in the year. The blousey pink cherry blossom is yet to come.

It fell to me to take a relative out today to buy a birthday present for a friend. We had breakfast in a little café (they do the most delicious bacon) in Culcheth and then drove over to the Lakeland store in Wilmslow. The Trafford Centre branch would have been closer but my relative didn’t want the hassle of the mall or to go into Manchester city centre to look for something. There was nothing suitable in Lakeland so we went on to Cheadle Royal to go to the John Lewis department store. Nothing there either (this friend must be very picky if there’s nothing in JL) but at least we were able to pick up a few things in the Sainsburys next door. Then I remembered that nearby Cheadle village was having a Maker’s Market that day so, dodging the April showers, we went there.

They call it Cheadle Village and I suppose it was 200 years ago when Manchester was a dirty, industrial smear on the horizon to the north. In those days it would have been an agricultural village in the Cheshire countryside. The rail route brought well to do Victorians who built large villas on the edge of the village. In the early 20th century Cheadle, along with nearby Cheadle Hulme and Cheadle Heath, were subsumed in the suburban sprawl of Manchester. And if you have to live in suburban sprawl you could do worse than Cheadle. As well as the the Victorian villas and the old cottages, there are lots of spacious, 1930s houses and, recently, some modern mansions of debatable taste popular among the poorer of the players from Manchester City and Manchester United. ‘Poor’ being a relative term when talking about the wages of Premiership footballers. The really rich ones live on walled estates deeper in Cheshire. 

The centre of the old village has found itself on one of the main road routes from Stockport to the western suburbs and on a route to the motorway network. Every few minutes a plane flys low overhead as it comes into land at Manchester Airport a few miles away. 

If you live there you get used to the busyness and noise I suppose. There’s still the atmosphere of a village in parts. It’s quite usual for the local pub to have been built next to the parish church in an English village and this has happened in Cheadle where the White Hart Tavern sits next to St. Mary’s Church.

St. Mary’s is one of the cities Grade 1 listed buildings, alongside of the likes of Manchester Town Hall. There’s been a church on the site since 1200 but this one was built between 1530 and 1550, during the reign of Henry VIII. There might have been an older one than 1200 with its foundations under the bigger, newer one. The Victorians couldn’t help but ‘improve’ it and it had some work done in 1988, but more of than later. It has a large, and well occupied, and peaceful (until an A380 flys over) churchyard.

Earlier I spoke about some work that had been done on the church in 1988. Ancient Grade 1 listed buildings are very, very, almost impossible, to change. They didn’t try to add a modern extension but they did something interesting with the clock. There are three clock faces in the tower. There is none in the northern face as having one there is considered to be unlucky. I didn’t know that. Originally it had numbers. But now it has letters instead of numbers. I’d assumed that it had been that way since the clock was put in, in Victorian times but this only happened in 1988. The clock face in the southern aspect of the tower says FORGET NOT GOD.

The clock in the eastern face says TIME IS FLYING.

And I had to get into the car park behind the White Hart Tavern to see the western clock face it says TRUST THE LORD. This is the only church, or anywhere else for that matter, that I’ve seen this done. 

I liked this vibrant combination of red tulips and purple pansies. I will have to remember it for planting in the autumn. And I need to find the early flowering purple/blue azalea. They do well in our garden and it’s good to find a new one.

One of the entrances to the church.

At the other end of the Main Street of the village is this old pub, the George & Dragon. It’s an old pub and I think it’s an old coaching house where people stopped and stayed 300 years ago as they travelled round the country. They were the motel/restaurants of their day. I can tell it was a coaching house because of the large arch on the left that would let the coach and horses into the coach yard behind the building. In 21st century Manchester the arch has been glazed over to provide the pub with an extra dining space. Some people were eating and watching the Liverpool/Everton football match on a huge TV screen. I’m never allowed to watch TV while I’m eating except Sunday evening when we have a buffet meal and people pick what they want and eat on the sofas in the sitting room. And we do it on Christmas Day evening and Boxing Day.

Lesser Celandine is a member of the buttercup family and is one of the UK’s most popular Spring wildflowers. I like its glossy, heart shaped leaves and its bright, waxy, yellow flowers. Apparently it’s found across Europe and into Asia as far as Japan. Gardeners don’t like it as it can, once established, colonise an area crowding out all other plants. Being a member of the buttercup family, all parts are poisonous and farm animals that might eat it can be very ill indeed and could die. It’s not native to North America but has been introduced there for some reason. They are regretting it as it has colonised woodlands across the US and Canada. 

But this little colony on the bank by a road surrounding a local golf course is no danger to passing cows or chickens and won’t be leaping across the road to local gardens either. So I can continue to enjoy it with no worries.

The warm sunshine has tempted some of the hibernating butterflies out. I’ve seen several bright yellow Brimstone butterflies but they aren’t keen in settling to be photographed. This pretty, brown one was though. He/she settled on a celandine flower for a meal of nectar. I didn’t recognise what sort it is but a quick Google search on my iPad revealed it is a Comma butterfly. I think it gets its name from when it closes its wings it looks like a comma punctuation mark. They used to be restricted the the Welsh border area but have spread their habitat to other parts of the country, especially to the north where it is now warm enough for them to cope. Nice to hear a good butterfly story. We do seem to be losing a lot of them.