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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.

Drops and Drips

February is the month that most of us just want to see the back of.

It`s short and gloomy and seems to last so much longer than 28 days. “February fill dyke , be it black or be it white “is an old adage that just about sums it up , although there is another that runs

“If February brings no rain it`s neither good for grass nor grain”. So you pays your money and takes your choice but on a brighter note if Candlemas day is cloudy and wet they reckon that winter is over and there is no more hard weather to come. (Candlemas was the 2nd. Did it rain ?)

Hopefully we are seeing some signs of Spring stirring. Snowdrops will peak during this month and be quickly followed by crocuses.

Should be some interesting types popping up around the village centre where many new ones were planted last Autumn. Look out for them. In a couple of places in the New Hall Valley, Sutton Coldfield one of the earliest wildflowers will already be coming into bloom. The understated Dog`s Mercury will throw little sprays of greenish white flowers. Look for it in undisturbed ground along old hedges and in uncultivated woodland. No, I have no idea where the name came from , any ideas?

Hope you have remembered to make your voice heard over the issue of Green Belt development. Speak up , fill in the appropriate form and send it in . Your voice is Our voice so do not leave it to everyone else, whatever your view , state it.

Short and sweet , as I hope this month is . Don`t forget my card on the 14th

This article is written by Sutton Coldfield resident Jeff or Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road.  Printed in Walmley Pages Magazine which is delivered to homes and businesses in Walmley and Sutton Coldfield.

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.

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.


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.

June and Jubilee

May has run it’s course and we enter June. This is the month that contains the longest day , so after that it will be all downhill. May seemed to forget that it is supposed to be our best spring month and decided to make liars of the Water Companies who declared a drought. Wetness returned with a  vengeance and our brooks, rivers and lakes filled fast. The countryside greened like never before . All the early flowers and blossom went head down in the drizzle and I expect that lots of us stayed in and missed the first flora of the year. What we did not miss was the arrival of our first swifts and swallows , who could be seen searching the sky for a meagre ration of their favourite insect fare. Also our garden birds started off their breeding season with tits, blackbirds and dunnocks all very active .The tits in particular are now feeding young in a non-stop frenzy. Someone somewhere with nothing better to do has estimated that each year Blue Tit parents feed to their young no less than 35billion moth caterpillars. Even without any of the other sources of food that is a lot of trips to nature’s supermarket !

At last ,as I write this in the last week of May , the sun has come out and we have the sun on our backs and faces . Why does the first real sunshine of the year affect people in such funny ways ?

Please look in the mirror before you come out and ask yourself or your   partner “do I really look OK in this or should it stay in that dark cupboard?”

Finally of course, in whatever way you please, celebrate and enjoy the     Jubilee Holiday, it may be the last time we have such an occasion again. Congratulations to our Queen and mind your step on that boat trip.


Jeff Gilbert

This article appeared in the June 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 8,000 homes in

Walmley and surrounding area’s.


Daffs and Laffs

Nights are really drawing in and Autumn is upon us. This year the leaves started to turn to their fall shades in early August. This was a result of our very very dry June and July. It seems that the rest of the country was getting drowned while we just got drier and drier. However there seems to be plenty of food in and on the hedgerows for our feathered and furry cohabiters. How do blackberries, plums, damsons and sloes manage to be so juicy and plump eve when there is hardly any rain? It is one of Mother Nature’s miracles, like the turn of the year and the daffodils in the spring. Oh did I mention Daffodils? Funnily enough Getreal Community Group are again having a Saturday Daff Planting Day. They’ve got the Bulbs now all they need are the bodies to do the planting. Look out for the Gazebo in the village on October 15th, grab some bulbs and plant, complicated it aint. Last years bulbs were a delight this spring and you can add to our display for next year. The cycle path extension through to Pype Hayes and Eachelhurst Road seems to be a great success. A sunny Sunday stroll showed happy groups, all genders, all ages, all promenading a la continent. A delightful sight to see as part of our community. The Valley Boardwalk, in Newhall Valley Country Park, Walmley, has now been reopened and rebuilt thanks to this community. Many turned up and many worked. The sound of sawing and hammering was interspersed with the sound of laughing and coffee slurping. Not only is it a stunning achievement but a good time was had by all. It was a big task but we are a big hearted community. Pat yourselves on the collective back. (if it has stopped aching by now)

Jeff Gilbert – Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Walmley, B76