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Britain in Bloom buildings community gardening garden furniture light quality RSPB sculpture water in the garden Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Hide’n’squeak in the allotments!

We are developing ever closer links with our county’s wildlife trust, the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and our allotment community gardens at Bowbrook. (see website http://www.bowbrookallotments.co.uk and shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk) This year on the day of our NGS Yellow Book Gardens Open Day we planned a mini-bioblitz in the morning before the public arrived to share the community gardens in the afternoon. The Shropshire Mammal Group came along to lead the first session where we opened live mammal traps which had been set in baited areas around the wildlife areas of the site. The mammals were identified, weighed and recorded. The local children and their families enjoyed the chance of seeing these experts at work and were afforded the rare chance of close up views of some of our small mammals.

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We had been spotting a weasel close to our Herb Garden recently and we had good, extremely close-up views of him as he was so confident. Some members watched the spectacle of him catching a vole – a bit gory but very exciting – the reality of life in the wild! The SWT and Mammal Group members gathered and set up their gazebo, before we all trouped off to find the first of the 30 live mammal traps set in our green spaces. The areas around the traps were baited with peanuts and peanut butter. Every mammal finds it hard to resist peanut butter!

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The critters were held up for all to see – a rare opportunity for the youngsters of our allotment site to see these creatures close up. They were help by the scruff of he neck just as a mother mammal would carry its young, which is totally harmless. This handsome fellow is a Wood Mouse. We were to catch several more of these.

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The second trap was a repeat of the first. We were delighted to see that it had been tripped as the normal success rate is about 3 captures out of 30 traps. We looked set for a successful day!

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We encouraged the children to get involved. We hope these will not only be the gardeners of the future but also the naturalists and almost certainly wildlife gardeners. We moved emptying successfully tripped traps and recorded many more Wood Mice as well as Voles.

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The picnic site under the oak tree became an activity centre for the day giving youngsters the opportunity to get involved in nature related craft activities.

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As we moved on from the oak tree we discovered several traps tripped by the tiniest mammals of all, the shrews.

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But as we neared the end of our expedition we found the stars of the show, The Yellow Necked Mice. These are much more of a rarity than any other creatures we caught and for many a completely unknown one. Not many people seem to know of their existence so were delighted to find we had a colony living alongside us here on the allotments. It certainly justified all the hard work we have put in creating our wildlife areas.

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In the end we were amazed by how successful the trapping had been with 27 of the 30 traps fired. We now know our green spaces are working for wildlife.   Back at the Communal Hut we opened up the tunnels put down to record the tracks of mammals passing through. These were covered in little foot prints.

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The Mammal Society stayed on through the afternoon into our NGS Open Day and provided entertainment and information. They were kept very busy.

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What a great day! It is amazing how fascinating such little creatures can be.

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awards Britain in Bloom buildings garden photography gardening outdoor sculpture the sea the seaside

Awards and Wet Weather in Cleethorpes

We have just returned from a weekend up on the Lincolnshire coast. We had been invited to attend the RHS Britain in Bloom award ceremony at Cleethorpes’ Beechcomber Entertainment Centre, a rather strange place harking back to the days of Butlins Holiday Camps. We were there to represent our Allotment Community as I am chairman and Jude is secretary to the management committee. We had to attend the ceremony on Saturday eve so decided to make a weekend of it.

The award ceremony was very successful for us, the rest of the weekend less so. But we are gardeners and hardy folk so we were not going to let the wild weather beat us. At the ceremony we proudly received an RHS National Award of Distinction. This was a result of our awards Bowbrook Allotment Community received at the RHS Its Your Neighbourhood Award Ceremony in Birmingham in September, a “Level 5 Outstanding Award” and two RHS Discretionary Awards, the “Community Gardening Award” and one awarded to me for “Outstanding Merit Award for Leadership in Community Gardening”. We came away with some beautiful cut glass trophies as well as our certificates.

The east coast of England was battered by winds and heavy rain over the weekend but being a hardy pair we carried on regardless and enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade. The gardens here had been recently renovated and were neatly kept. We are not fans of bedding plants formally planted nor of conifers but admired the gardeners handiwork none the less. Sculpture pieces featured along the promenade gardens.

All the photos were taken through pouring rain and often through a filter of rain drops on the lens filter glass.

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Cleethorpes had become run down but is experiencing a bit of a revival and civic pride seems to be returning. However some of the traditional buildings of seaside resorts were looking worse for wear especially emerging from the gloom of the day.

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But we weren’t the only brave souls defying the elements. Dog walkers, fishermen, the seaside donkeys and windsurfers were equally defiant.

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Drying out after our promenade along the sea front took some time but the seaside in rough weather has its own specific charm about it. It was heartening to see a seaside town trying to reinvent itself using gardens as a starting point, a good way to create some pride in a place.

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allotments Britain in Bloom community gardening flower show fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening gardens open to the public grow your own half-hardy perennials renovation Shrewsbury Shropshire town gardens townscapes

A town riverside walk

Although we live close to our county town of Shrewsbury we go for months between visits to the banks of the River Severn, in whose loops the town sits snuggly. In the summer the council garnish the river banks with bright coloured plants in all sorts of containers and hanging baskets.

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I am not that keen on these brightly coloured bedding annuals but they seem to fit in with their setting so well here. Mother nature herself adds a little subtle planting herself with wild flowers growing close to the water and wonderful waterfalls of reflections.

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Our footbridge an old Victorian suspension bridge has recently been completely refurbished and it is looking smart in its new green suit. The builders greatest challenge was to make sure that after the make-over the old bridge retained her sway. As you walk across her she sways from side to side!

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This weekend is time for the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show so when we reached the open parkland spaces alongside the river we found signs of the village of tents and rows of arena seats appearing at a great rate of knots. It seemed to be growing up around us as we walked towards the little sunken garden called The Dingle.We now anticipate our day out at the show on Saturday most eagerly. We hope to go in the afternoon and stay until closing time with the magnificent firework display over the river.

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And so to the Dingle herself, which is not my cup of tea at all, but it is enjoyed by thousands every year. It is all a bit garish for my taste, but I do admit that it takes a great deal of skill to create and maintain it. It certainly gives pride to the town. Come on a tour with us and see what you think.

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We wandered back into the town centre to have a look at how the town council had decorated the Square as part of their “Britain in Bloom” campaign. All the allotment sites in and around the town had planted up mini-allotments small enough to fit on a pallet and these were collected up and put in the square. Local artists crafted two scarecrows from metal to give an extra dimension.

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Each post marking loading bays along the High Street had been given a topknot of Ipomaea in two foliage colours. Very subtle and very effective.

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