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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.


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

 


Gardening – My favourite four letter word…..

Just to put your hands into a bag of peat and give it a good squeeze has to rank amongst the most sensuous pleasures known to man – well, certainly a man that doesn’t get out very often! As a young ‘horticultural apprentice’ in my parents’ garden, I used it liberally to improve the soil in the borders and any new plant would have at least half a sack added to give it a good start in life. In fact, I’m surprised that, after all my digging, their garden didn’t evolve into the first man-made peat bog!
 
How things have changed. Once upon a time you could pop along to the garden centre and pick up a tin of creosote and some DDT, along with your good old peat, in order to tackle the weekend’s jobs. It’s probably fair to say that the only bogs of interest to us in those days were of the porcelain variety and any critters who had the temerity to chew on any of our geraniums would have the full arsenal of our “endorsed by Saddam Hussein” sprays unleashed upon them. Now garden centre shelves in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield, are, quite rightly, full of green and organic products that will only give greenfly a mild headache or tummy upset – just enough to put it off nibbling your plants and try the ones next door instead. Equally, the outside pallets of composts now offer a bewildering array of mixes, but with the overwhelming message that if you pick up anything that is not carrying the peat-free or, in the worst case, reduced–peat logo, you will be labeled an environmental vandal. Soon they will be offering brown paper bags so these “Peatists” can wrap their offending products discreetly to hide them from the prying eyes of the environmentally enlightened masses…..

But, should these Peatists be vilified for using what is, in effect, a natural resource covering vast tracts of Russia and Canada – especially as it has now been classified as a renewable biomass product by a UN advisory body? In our country, at least, there seems little excuse for pillaging acres of sedge peat that will take lifetimes to replenish – at a growth of 5mm a year it doesn’t take the mathematical ability of Carol Vorderman to work out that you and I, or indeed our children’s children, will not live to see these areas regenerated. Leave it to nature and the odd (very odd!) bog snorkeler to enjoy……

The startling reality, aside from all its aesthetic and tactile qualities, is that peat has very little that it can add to our gardens that we can’t produce ourselves in our compost bins. If you haven’t the space, time or energy to do your own composting, then buy composted green waste as it is every bit as good as peat based soil conditioners – you only need to see the numbers of worms it contains! Peatists and the large commercial growers may argue that peat is a much easier and consistent product to work with – but what they can’t argue with is the “peat-miles” involved and that peat extraction is now as environmentally acceptable an activity as chopping down the rainforests or dumping all our rubbish at sea.

Personally, I love the stuff; you can burn it, grow plants in it (if you have to) but, most importantly, it adds that all important flavour to a single malt whisky – so call me a Peatist if you want to, but keep putting your leftovers in the compost bin while I pour myself another shot of Laphroaig.

Jonathan Wild
Garden Consultant and Connoisseur of the ‘Black Stuff’


Pimp My Ride -To the Garden Centre and Back!

Pimp My Ride -To the Garden Centre and Back!

We’ve all done it – popped along to the local garden centre for a packet of sunflower seeds and come out with enough new plants to re-stock a small country estate. It is also virtually impossible to leave without a trailer full of compost, a nice new shiny stainless steel thingamibob for weeding the borders or maybe a Lady Spade! Which is all very well until you get to the family Mondeo and wonder how you are going to fit it all in.

The bottom line is that most cars and I include Chelsea Tractors and pick ups in this sweeping statement, were not designed for the garden centre run. The loading procedure for your average shopping trip inevitably takes the form of a scene from ‘It’s a Knockout’ with Stuart Hall providing a hilarious commentary as the boot, back seat, foot wells and glove box are engulfed in horticultural stuff.

Yes, of course you can cheat and take advantage of the free home delivery, but not everyone can wait to get their new plants and ‘sundries’ home; besides, what if you live outside the delivery area? A few years ago I remember travelling throughBirminghamin my gleaming company car when I spotted a garden centre with a sign proclaiming ‘SALE– EVERYTHING HALF PRICE!’ This always has that red rag/ bull effect on yours truly so business meetings were cancelled as I went hunting for a bargain. Unfortunately, my bargain(s) turned out to be a pair of spiral topiary specimen trees which were approximately 6 feet tall and planted in substantial pots of very heavy compost. Stuart Hall would have had a field day; my suit, the previously immaculate car and my self-esteem were in tatters as I managed to cajole these monsters through the boot, across the back seat and onto the dashboard. Thankfully the trees survived unscathed and are still resplendent in the front garden of my old house – however, every time I pass by I get flashbacks of the journey from hell and the hefty cleaning bill!

Luckily I have never been one of those people who feel a need to drive around in a spotless car and, having now acquired 3 children and assorted dogs, that isn’t an option anyway. Yes I’ve done the flash motor bit but my latest jalopy, an old Volvo estate, is proving to be as close to perfection as I can get for garden centre forays. Firstly, it has got a massive boot with a low sill; with the back seats down you could even get a garden bench in there! Secondly it already has a background aroma of ‘Eau de Wild Bunch’ so a stray bit of manure won’t make any difference. Most importantly, I have a good feel for exactly how much I can load in before either the suspension gives up the ghost or the boys in blue read me my rights. If I had one complaint it would be the lack of headroom for tall plants (sod the passengers!) but perhaps I could get someone to fit one of those concertina roofs like you see on Camper Vans.

The big problem with garden centre purchases is the ‘randomness’ of it all. Normally your groceries will fit neatly into plastic bags. Not so your garden supplies where you have to try and keep your plants from toppling over and prevent muddy water from dripping on your velour upholstery. I would love to see the Top Gear team have a go at ‘pimping’ your average car into the ideal wheels for garden centre devotees – Jeremy Clarkson take note!

Maybe ‘garden centre user friendliness’ would not be top of your average road tester’s priorities when putting the latest Porsche through it’s paces – but I would be willing to bet that at some stage in its life it’s going to have some inappropriate plant life on the passenger seat following a trip to the garden centre!

 Garden article provided by Recommended, Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public.