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Remember to Relax

Funny how after a vibrant and colourful Spring as we approach July all things seem to settle down and become more muted and perhaps understated. The bright greens, yellows and blues calm and soften as the season draws on. Birds that not so long ago were vibrating along every hedgerow are quieter and , after raising their chicks, more tired `cos kids can be very demanding of parents time and energy. Ready for the school holidays are we? This is a good time to dawdle along the valley and across the meadows just looking and listening and just breathing in some fresh air. Remember though to please be in control of your dog and clean up after it. Remember to please consider pedestrians when you are on your bike, all the valley paths are to be shared with care. Remember how lucky we are to have such a resource as the New Hall Valley Country Park and remember that it needs caring for and looking after. It really is a jewel in Walmley`s crown , it is as good an example of Community asset that we could wish for.

We are now nearer to next Christmas than we are to the last so lets get out into our gardens and relax. The glorious scent of the neighbour`s barbeque, the throbbing bass from a passing car, the house alarm that has been going since midday, the mowers, the strimmers……….. Still ,as of yet no sound of gunfire or rumble of tanks, I like to live in a country that people strive to get into rather than out of, don`t you ? ( apart from a Scottish Nationalist of course )

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local publication delivered free to homes and businesses in Walmey, Minworth and Sutton Coldfield.

Water, Wood and Wild Wander

Just a week or so after reading this it will be Midsummers Day !

How does a year go by so fast? At least we seem to be having proper seasons this year. Not much snow for snowmen though.

A great show of blossom this spring with the May (hawthorn)

lasting a full month, Apple and Cherry blooms promise a bumper crop later. In the Valley our grasslands are starting to reach a peak of colour as all the wildflowers compete for the attentions of moths, butterflies and bees. Join us for a Wildflower Wander through some of the best meadows in the West Midlands. Meet at the Water Mill 2.00pm Sunday June 8th. Hope for sunshine and we`ll see how many of the over 100 species are on view. Bonus is that the Mill is open and so is the tea room. Also in the Valley we are having a Grand Balsam Bash ! Sunday June 22nd 9.30am and we will try to clear the Plants Brook of this Himalayan invader to give our indigenous water plants and wildlife chance to grow and flourish out of the shade cast by the Balsam. Wellies essential.

How many readers recognise the name of “Jones`s Wood”??

This is the patch of ancient woodland next to the Deanery School and is in need of some urgent TLC. A meeting is to be held at the school on Wednesday June 11th 7.00pm to explore setting up a Friends group and to discuss ongoing issues and future maintenance. Nothing heavy ,just a bit of help for a neglected but much loved patch of Walmley past and present.

If you care about Walmley , the Valley or the Wood, come along to any or all of these events supporting our Community.


This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local publication delivered free to residents in Walmley, Minworth and Sutton Coldfield areas.

Gardening Time for a Clear Out

Without wishing to sound too blasphemous I often thank my god (Percy Thrower if you really must ask…..) that the British summer is normally so short and sweet – an Englishman can only eat so many Mr Whippy’s and absorb so much coconut oil! Plus, I have to admit I am now ever so slightly bored with all things herbaceous (apart from the chrysanths and the asters of course). Even keen gardeners can get too much of a good thing. So now that autumn has finally arrived it’s time to pull on some warm clothes and get down and dirty!

The exceptionally hot summer has meant that there has been little opportunity to do any ‘serious’ gardening for a few months now. Apart from grass cutting, staking and tidying things up, oh and don’t forget all that clipping back of rampant hedges and shrubs, the borders are relatively untouched. For a gardener that’s not a problem but you can’t beat hauling your spade out of the shed and really getting stuck in to some serious digging. If you’ve got a veg plot then now’s a great time to lose a few pounds from all that over-indulgence on Mr Whippy’s and, if you can incorporate some good quality manure at the same time, then next year’s salads will taste that much better.

Tackling the rest of the garden tends to be a bit more tricky at this time of year as an unguided spade can do some serious damage, particularly where you’ve got beds full of mixed planting with bulbs or other spring plants that are now dormant. It is, however, the very best time to do any planting of hardy garden plants, shrubs or trees before the serious winter weather hits. Anything planted now will have time to get some roots out into the ground before the frosts subdue them into hibernation – meaning they get a great start when the weather warms up in spring. Another good reason to do your planting now is so you can safely dig up any existing plants, divide them if you want to create more for next year, and have another look at the all planting combinations available to you. I’m just about to re-jig a couple of very large mixed borders as I’m not entirely happy with the way they look at the moment. This will probably entail lots of happy hours toiling away with a trusty spade, my battered wheelbarrow and a basic design showing me where to re-plant everything, not to mention where to put any new additions that may have come to mind. Doing it at this time of the year, you also have the added advantage of putting in a few spring bulbs at the same time – this all helps to bring another level of interest to the mix.

Fittingly, now is also the time for yours truly to announce that this will be my last monthly garden rumination. I can’t help thinking that it’s a good time for someone else to have the pleasure of your company within this fine publication. It seems like a lifetime ago now since a couple of friends who published a local magazine asked me to put pen to paper and bring you the first of an epic series of 100 gardening columns. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and made some great friends along the way. I hope I will still find time to make the odd guest appearance in the future and, to whoever takes up the reins, good luck – and don’t forget the dreaded deadlines!

However and wherever you do it, enjoy your garden!       

Jonathan Wild

Ex Garden Columnist seeking New Opportunities!

This article appears in Walmley Pages, a local magazine delivered to homes in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.

Cheers and Cheeps – Article from Walmley Pages Magazine

Do we in Walmley realise how lucky we are to have a number of unpaid and unsung heroes who quietly enhance all our lives with no thought of recompense or reward. This attitude goes straight to the real heart of that elusive ideal, “community “. People like the group of pensioners who weekly tidy round the church and church hall, the early morning duo who tidy around the Select n Save area, THANKS to you all.

The magical appearance of our hanging baskets, Christmas tree and lights, they all have silent arrangers behind the scenes as do the annual Remembrance service at the memorial, ditto the carols round the tree each December. THANKS to you all .Too many to mention who help out in our Country Park, those who pick up other folks litter , those who help to cut back overgrowth , those who always answer the call for workdays. THANKS to you all, Chrissy , David, Chris, Jenny, Paul, Bill…….The list is extensive and covers many ages and both genders. All of these hardy souls do not sit back and whine “something must be done”, they get out there and do it !

I know that through August and September your garden birds have been quiet and less in evidence . This is perfectly normal and is as a result of their annual moult when they feel vunerable , so don’t sing and tend to skulk. By now they will be coming back and this is a good time to establish a feeding station in your garden to ensure plenty of winter entertainment from a convenient window.

Provide clean water and a variety of foods in your chosen spot and enjoy.  Remember keep it clean and regular. Small quantities at first to avoid attracting vermin. Just one reason to look forward to winter. Lastly, a date for your diary…


Saturday October 12th    Crocus planting in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield

All welcome, just bring your trowel, and dig it ! 


Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appears in Walmley Pages Magazine, a local free magazine delivering to homes in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas.


Green Genes Don’t Just Grow on Trees…!

As a doting father and helpless gardening addict it would be highly unnatural for me not to want at least one of my little Wildlets to have more than a passing interest in plants and gardens. Obviously, it would be more financially prudent to focus their attention on golf or football but I was rather hoping that the ‘green gene’ might appear spontaneously without too much prompting from me. At the moment though, I have to report they appear more intent on emulating Wayne Rooney than Alan Titchmarsh – quite an alarming prospect for their grandparents!

Salvation may be on the horizon though, because there is currently a national crusade to get kids more involved in gardening and the great outdoors being pioneered by the Royal Horticultural Society and involving every school in the country. Given the unpopularity of bankers and politicians, it is gratifying as a parent to see the next generation being sown the inspiration for either a future in the horticulturural industry or simply a healthy outlet for their energies out in their own gardens. Most schools have now taken advantage of the grants available to assist in teaching kids how to ‘grow their own’ and have come up with some fantastic plots where everyone can get stuck in and get their hands dirty – a bit like being a banker really!

On the back of this a whole new horticultural industry has emerged with garden centres bedecked with a cornucopia of brightly coloured mini tools, wheelbarrows, watering cans, clothing, special children’s mixes of seeds, countless books, DVD’s and no doubt (I’ve not checked!) an App or two on how to become self-sufficient with mange touts in a hanging basket! Unfortunately I’ve yet to see any of these enticements lead to any potential signs of horticultural interest from my boys. Worse still, a painful encounter with a bee has recently put the kybosh on Olly’s interest in pollination – for the time being at least!

Giant sunflowers, pumpkins, rude carrots (don’t ask!), longest worm and hairiest spider competitions have all been tried with a modicum of interest, but to date their greatest excitement has been seeing a healthy bonfire and finding ‘stuff’ to keep it going. The problem with all this is the inordinate amount of parental supervision required and their inability to differentiate between dead plants and those happily minding their own business while flowering their heads off! I don’t know about green genes but certainly the smoke gene appears to have made the generational shift – as my parents would testify, their garden was the site of many a dramatic conflagration (even involving the fire brigade, but that’s another story!).

Although I am clearly raising a couple of pyromaniacs, at least it gets them outside and the patron saint of bonfires, Guy Fawkes Esq, gives Wayne Rooney a bit of healthy competition on the role model front!

Gardening Pic 2012-12

 Young Olly watering the flowers before his encounter with the sharp end of a bee.


Jonathan Wild – Garden Consultant and Smoke Gene Carrier!

This article appeared in the December – January edition of Walmley Pages Magazine,

a local free magazine delivered to 8,000 homes in Walmley,

Sutton Coldfield and all areas in B76 postcode.


Green is the colour

Looking back is traditional at this time of year, especially as we have a bright shiny new one to make a mess of. Such a lot of rain made it a difficult time down in the Valley. Our wildflower meadows missed the correct time for mowing and we have to hope that it has not too much effect on this new year`s display. Certainly the undergrowth burgeoned massively and it meant machete time around the Boardwalk and at various other points where the greenery impeded a walk or ride. Earlier in the year we had a go at the Himalayan Balsam that infests the brook and would hope to do the same this coming spring. There are those that would have us clear out the stream of its silt and and weeds but I think that the fact that fish and crayfish have returned are an indicator of good water quality. The long bright green weed that has white flowers is water crowfoot , again a natural sign of water quality. Also, we will be adding some extra, long awaited , litter and waste bins shortly as a joint effort between the Council and the Steering Group.( We pay for `em ,they get `em emptied!) The muddy gateway at Allendale Rd has at last received our attention and been meshed. Apart from work of course there has been much to enjoy and appreciate. The lush summer gave way to a spectacular autumn and now winter. Whatever the season there is always good reason to get out there and enjoy, `cos it is the users who make it what it is , ours.

Ours, also, is the Green Belt that surrounds us. It is under pressure from an increasing city population. I fear that the case for releasing some of it (400hectares) is too strong to resist. However, with the right response to the current consultation we should be able to mitigate its effect on our locale. If you have not already done so , please comment on the proposals before the end of January. Try to make objections objective and offer alternatives. Don`t be afraid to be a Nimby , because Nimbys care about where they live and how they live. Be heard and least say you tried. Your kids may yet thank you for it .

Jeff Gilbert


NIMBY or Nimby (an acronymfor the phrase “not in my back yard“)


This article appeared in the January edition of Walmley Pages Magazine,

a local magazine delivered free to over 8000 homes.

Gardening – My Desert Island Disc Plants

I’ve always liked the Desert Island Disc concept, the one where you get to choose just eight pieces of music to ease the sense of isolation as you while away your days alone on an island in the Caribbean – but I’ve always felt that unless you were lucky enough to get stranded with Mrs Crusoe (or Nigella Lawson) you’d need a bit more than Vaughan Williams to keep you sane. Well here’s my choice of eight flowers to compliment the music; clearly these are purely personal and if you’d rather take along some nice King Edwards and a couple of grape vines instead, then I quite understand!


First choice is the Nerine, a bulb which has fascinated me since I was a boy. The fact it has a summer rest with no water makes it easy to grow and it always flowers around my birthday – September in case you’d forgotten! You don’t need desert island temperatures for the hardy Nerine bowdenii – try it, you won’t be sorry!


Next up is the Azalea – not the most fashionable plant at the moment but one which is indelibly etched in my memory because many years ago I took a seed pod from a war grave in Germany. One of the resulting plants still flowers in my mother’s garden every spring and its powerful scent alone earns it a place on my list.


The Iris family is vast but the big and bouncy tall Bearded Iris is my favourite. I have hundreds of varieties in my garden (the photo shows a few) so the big problem would be selecting just one to take to the island!


Like the Iris my next choice would relish the hot, dry desert island conditions – Coronilla glauca is one of those special plants I ‘discovered’ by accident a few years ago. Now I can’t imagine a garden without finding a spot for this small growing shrub! Delightful!


My next choice would not seem out of place on a desert island – the orchid – although the particular type I prefer would rather be stranded on top of a cool, moist hillside. The Pleione is a tiny little spring flowering species – another of my heirloom plants I have been growing forever and would hate to be without. Captivating!


My last three choices I have grouped together as Marigolds, Sweet Peas and Roses. All of them are as indispensable to this stranded Yorkshireman as tripe and onions. And as for the choice of rose, it would have to be my dad’s favourite – Josephine Bruce – a gorgeous deep red colour with a fantastic scent. The next best thing to Mrs Crusoe!



Jonathan Wild

Garden Consultant and Up a Creek with no Paddle!


This article appeared in the Great Barr Gazette, a local magazine delivered to 16,000 homes in

Great Barr and the surrounding area’s.