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Simply Beautiful – 19

The woodland walk at Attingham Hall Park is one of our favourites and we walk it several time each year.

What a surprise this was! As we wandered along a bark chip path at Attingham Park Jude noticed water in the bowl of an old Beech tree. Closer examination revealed a tiny pond with crisp reflections of the upper branches of the Beech. Simple and beautiful! Simply beautiful!


I imagine that this mini-pond has an important role to play in the ecosystem of the wood, attracting tiny water creatures, providing a bathing place for birds and a drinking place for wildlife.


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The Dingle Gardens Month by Month 2018

My chosen garden f0r my monthly visits in  2018 is so much smaller than Attingham Park which we enjoyed throughout 2017. The Dingle is a Nursery just over the border into Wales situated on the edge of the market town of Welshpool. The garden is accessed through a little wooden gate in the bottom left corner of the nursery where a large selection of Acer shrubs are displayed for sale. It is a garden centred around a huge collection of shrubs and trees, many unusual, growing on a gentle slope down to a lake.

The garden like ours opens at times under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme, but opens every other day of the year bar Christmas Day. I have already featured the gardens four times in my past posts. Here are a few photos to give you a taste of what we might discover during the year.


I hope these few photos will give you an appetite for the 12 posts to come about The Dingle in 2018.

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My Garden Journal 2017 – November

The penultimate visit to my garden journal for 2017 is here – hope you enjoy it. I began by referring back to a development we started in the garden back in September which we finished off in November. We are very pleased with how it has turned out and look forward to seeing the new plants flourish.

“October continued with damaging winds and days with brown skies and orange sun as we received the effects f Hurricane Ophelia, downgraded to Storm Ophelia as it hit our shores. The last few weeks of October and the early days of November, saw us busy continuing develop our “Oil Tank Garden”.


“We screened the ugly tank with panels of beautiful diamond latticed panels and soon got on with the planting. Always the exciting bit!”

Over the page I continue to describe our development of this border and wrote “Behind the tank we have planted two trees, the Heptacodium mentioned in September and a stunning Sorbus called Joseph Rock with yellow berries in stark contrast to its deepest red autumn foliage.


“Hundreds of miniature daffodils were planted with crocus, Anemone blanda and other small bulbs.”

“A new solitary bee home was sited in the new garden. We gave it a miniature green roof!”

“We soon had a selection of climbers planted to clothe the trellis panels, Roses, Clematis, Honeysuckle and a Coronilla”.


“Behind the tank we planted for wildlife and hedgehogs in particular. We placed a nestbox for hedgehogs among dense planting of ferns and Euphorbias. We added stone piles, leaf piles and log piles.”

Turning over another page I featured some words by Dan Pearson and looked at some autumn flowering plants.

“Taking a look at Dan Pearson’s writings about Autumn in his “Natural Selections” book he wrote,

I want to invite the seasons into the garden, vividly and in layers. I use asters, autumn crocus and gentians at ground level, and shrubs that perform for this season to take the eye up and away, to straighten the back. I weave berrying trees and shrubs into the garden as much for their jewel-like fruit as for the birds which flock down to gorge when the fruit is ready for feasting upon.”

We aim to do exactly the same in our Avocet patch. Below are a few of our Asters which feature in our “Shrub Border”,  a border that brings Autumn in.”


“Another herbaceous perennial that features strongly in our November garden are the Salvias. We leave a few to over-winter in the garden but most will be brought into the cool greenhouse.”


Turning over again I take a look at succulents, plants rarely mentioned in the context of the autumn garden.

“When considering Autumn colour, succulents are rarely mentioned, but just check out the photos below of some of our succulents taken in November


Below are my paintings/drawings of two multi-coloured succulent stems which I created with water soluble pencil crayons.

“Taking succulent cuttings.”


“Final pots of succulents waiting to go into their winter home.”


The final page of my November entries in the Garden Journal celebrates my “Plant of the Month”, which is one of only two Irises native to the UK, Iris foetidissima.


The next visit to look at my Garden Journal in 2017 will be the last one for the year, December.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park – August Part 1

As summer moved on we made our August visit to Attingham Park for our monthly walk in the park. We decided to follow the Mile Walk in reverse for a change of view and as we were expecting rain later in the afternoon we kept to the shortest trail that we take. This turned out to be a wise decision because the rain started to fall when we had just a 5 minute walk back to the carpark. Our luck was in!

When we arrived we struggled to find a parking space as it was so busy being a mid-summer weekend afternoon but we found out later that it was also weekend when a special event was taking place, a Family Spectacular.

We decided to follow the One-Mile Walk in the opposite direction than the way we usually take and indeed against the signs. We are always amazed how following a path through a garden or the countryside in a reverse direction presents whole new experiences.

What struck us most as soon as we started the walk was the way the texture of tree bark was standing out. This mighty conifer was right at the start of our walk and showed it perfectly.


We also began to identify the shape of eyes on tree trunks where side boughs had fallen or been removed. This can be seen below in that same tree.

I will now share my texture photos with you in the form of a gallery and we can look at how much variety of texture and pattern we managed to find.

The almost circular scars left as a bough breaks away from the main trunk often form eye-like shapes, and on this walk we seemed to see so many. Enjoy a little selection below.


As we searched tree trunks for “eyes” we began to find other shapes and colours as well, some from Lichens and some created by the hands of woodsmen or gardeners. I will leave it up to you to work out how these creations happened.


An added and very unexpected element to our August visit was the discovery of painted stones. This stone decorated with a beautiful little flower we found in a scar of a tree and wondered what it was doing there. We soon discovered the answer by turning the stone over where we were advised to check out “Shropshire Stones” on Facebook. If you want to know more check it out.


Continuing on the creative front we made another interesting surprise discovery as we wandered through the children’s playing field on our way to the orchard and walled garden.

The Walled Garden was so colourful with the main feature being the flowers. We will look at the surprise in the playing field and the walled garden in Part 2.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park July

Here we are back at Attingham Park for another wander, this time to see what is going on in the walled garden and woodland pleasure gardens in July.

We arrived in the rain and carried on regardless. Foliage was glossy with moisture because of the steady drizzle, and large puddles had formed on the path.


The gardener’s cottage garden gave a little colourful cheer to the day, and water droplets hung on flowers and berries. The heritage rare breed cattle in the field at the start of the track ignored the drizzle and continued tearing at the grass heads down.


The walled garden gave protection and the day began to feel a little warmer as the rain stopped.


The beautiful, recently restored, vintage glasshouses are now becoming productive with melons, grapes, tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers.


We particularly liked the amazing textures of this melon and its subtle mix of greens.


As we entered the gardeners’ bothy we could instantly enjoy the fresh uplifting aroma of bunches of freshly picked lavender, and the sight of simple flower arrangements and freshly harvested lettuces.


After taking in the sights, scents and sounds offered by the walled garden we continued on our wanders, following the One Mile Walk trail.


Come with us as we take you along this track in a gallery of photos. As usual click on the first and navigate with the arrows. We will return for another wander in August.



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Tree Trunks at Attingham

On our monthly wanders through the parkland at Attingham Park, the closest National Trust property to us here in Plealey, we spot many dead trees left standing to benefit wildlife, insects and birds in particular. But we simply enj0y their shapes as they decay and the textures created as fungi and small creatures eat them and erode them away.

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We came across a pair of old diseased beech trees both of which had been worked on by tree surgeons. One looked as if it had been made safe to be left for the wildlife of the woods but the other treated in a manner that would save it for years to come.

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When we went closer to look at this stump of an old rotting tree we noticed that someone who has passed before us had added a few pieces of wood creating a piece of outdoor sculpture. A surprise for us and other visitors lucky enough to spot it. And a little humour!

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Trees that have to be felled when they are in a dangerous place are felled, cut into logs which are stacked to create log piles for wildilfe.

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The slow decay and death of trees keeps the woodland changing for ever. They support many forms of wildlife before rotting away beneath the power of fungi to return to the woodland floor adding nutrients and humus to the soil.

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A return visit to the Prees Branch Line – a canal nature reserve.

My brother Graham and his wife Vicky came to stay with us in early September and we went for some good days out, one of which was to the Prees Branch Line, a disused canal branch that never actually opened but now is a rich nature reserve, the longest wildlife pond in Shropshire. We have visited several times in the past at different seasons and enjoyed every walk along the old abandoned canal, as there is always so much wildlife to observe, encounter and surprise.


The site sign hints strongly at its main wildlife star, the Water Vole with a lovely illustration, but this is a star who is a real secretive creature and visitors have to be very lucky to spot one. It is more likely to find stems of reeds nibbled down in the vole’s distinctive style, or hear the plop as it enters the water again a very distinctive sound. We have heard them plop and seen signs of their nibblings at this reserve but never as yet spotted one.


We began our walk enjoying a coffee as we put on our walking boots and luckily spotted some fruit trees close by, the native Shropshire Damson otherwise known as the Shropshire Prune. This tree is a feature of Shropshire’s hedgerows and we have enjoyed many while on walks. These however were the sweetest we have ever tasted, the nectar of the gods.

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On this latest visit we were lucky to spot and watch for a long while a rare bee, the Moss Carder Bee which was a first for us. It appeared right in front of me as I was taking a photograph of a plant so I had the rare chance of taking photographs so effortlessly. The bee really just posed for me. Graham and I watched it for a while and got very close, close enough to appreciate the beauty of its delicate colouring and the subtlety of its markings.

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Not so long after this a similar thing happened. Again I was taking a close up photograph of a plant when a hoverfly firstly came into view above the flower, then landed on it closely followed by a second identical one allowing me to get these shots. Twins! Identical twins!

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Berries were at various stages of ripeness from hard green to the darkest of ruby red.

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And wild flowers added spots of colour to the impressionist painting that is the bank of the canal.

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There was so much to see as we ambled along the narrow track along the towpath of the canal branch line that never opened to barges just to wildlife. Rather than narrow-boats plying the waters it is Swans, Mallards and Water Voles instead! We barely moved forward a few steps before something caught our eyes and stopped us in our tracks. I took so many photos that I thought I could invite you to join us as we followed our canal side path “there and back again”. Enjoy!

As usual just click on the first photo and then navigate with the arrows.









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Arboreta in Autumn – part 3 – Return to Richard’s

We loved our first visit to friends Richard and Anne’s home where we were treated to a tour of their wonderful, atmospheric arboretum. There is something extra special about a small arboretum, the results of one man’s vision. Richard knows every tree he has ever planted, its common name, its botanic name, its country of origin and the source of the plant or seed. The arboretum is now just 20 years old.

After a warm welcome we firstly enjoyed the lovely courtyard garden that Anne tends. It is a soft, gentle area that embraces the south facing side of the old mustard coloured mill house. Red flowered Pelargoniums with deep purple foliage filled an old stone trough beneath a brick wall clothed in soft pink roses of the climbing rose, Rosa “Open Arms”. Its scent is warm and richly fruity and remains with you as you leave it behind.

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The stone paving is softened by beautiful compositions of flowers and foliage.

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Richard and Anne took us across the gently sloping lawns with a boundary provided by the River Perry, and we climbed up to a gate in the fence which is the entrance to Richard’s fine collection of the finest trees. The real stars of the collection are Betulas (Birches), Acers, deciduous Euonymous and Liquidambers.

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More surprising was the incredibly deeply coloured red leaved Oak, with its large deeply cut leaves  and……..

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……….. this unusual specimen, Pistacia chinensis commonly known as the Chinese Pistacia.

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Every arboretum needs a selection of Sorbus (Rowans) to give the many coloured bunches of shiny berries, and Richard’s arboretum boasted a lovely group.

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Probably my favourite deciduous shrubs are the deciduous Euonymus with their unusual flowers and bizarrely coloured berries, combining such colours as cerise and orange. Luckily for me it is also Richard’s favourite shrub and he is building up a fine collection.

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Naturally what we really enjoyed most of all was seeing the wonderful selection of Birches in their autumn glory. We certainly were not to be disappointed. Jude even gave her favourite Betula a big hug – she must be turning into a tree hugger!

Of course you would be expecting me to mention the Betulas, my favourite family of trees and luckily it is Richards too and he grows alomst 180 different ones and several of his favourites.

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The River Birch below is Betula nigra “Dura Heat”. This is a particularly impressive multi-stemmed specimen and although just a young tree is already showing its peeling bark giving it a shaggy dog look.

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Now just enjoy my photos of a selection of our other favourites.

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What a great day we had sharing Richard’s trees and enjoying his vast reserves of knowledge. We will return in the Spring.

I will just finish with two other trees we found in the second field which Richard is building up into an extension of his arboretum, an unusual Acer, a Cercidyphlum and a black berried Buckthorn, a tree we had never seen before.

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Walking the New Forest – part two

We will continue our walk where we left off at the end of part one of “Walking the New Forest”.

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We left the old Oak behind crossed a clearing and followed a pathway through Beech trees as we aimed for an old wooden gate.

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The gateway afforded us views of an open area with few trees and most of those were now of Birch, our native Betula pendula.

Ferns within the wooded area tended to be the Hard Fern variety but once out in the more open and much drier heathland the main ferns were our common Bracken. The Bracken was showing signs of changing into its autumn coat but the Hard Fern is an evergreen and keeps its leathery deep green coloured fronds.

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We took an indistinct path which led us diagonally towards a little wooden bridge which enabled us to cross a ditch. As we crossed wet muddy patches we found signs of life, bicycle tracks left by previous human visitors and prints of deer

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Crossing the footbridge we aimed for a distant stand of brightly coloured Silver Birches.

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Leaving the heathland behind we crossed over a gravel track that led to a forestry worker’s house and entered a new inclosure of forest. The trees here started off as a selection of mixed deciduous native trees, but before too long conifers crept in. Slowly these dark pines took over completely and we found ourselves walking in dark woodland. Little grew beneath these trees as they blocked out the sunlight. The fresh smell of our native broadleaves was replaced by a resinous aroma reminiscent of pine household cleaners. Less inviting a smell than the warming and welcome scents of our native broadleaves.

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The path we were following suddenly met a crossroads where a clearing allowed more light through to reach us and the forest floor. Foxgloves appeared both as first year rosettes of leaves preparing to flower next year and as seed heads, the remains of this years flowers and the promise of more Foxgloves to come.

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We looked up from the bench where we sat enjoying our coffee break and noticed the bright leaves of Sweet Chestnuts and beneath them we discovered their nuts, nut cases and fallen leaves. We were entertained by the loud noise of rutting stags roaring through trees and the gentler sounds of the diminutive Goldcrests high in the branches of the conifers.

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The final leg of our walk took us along forestry tracks through the conifers and then back into the brighter world of native deciduous trees.

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Just before finding the car park we passed alongside a line of huge conifers blown down in strong winds, a line of destruction.

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We really enjoyed our first experience of the world of the New Forest. We had plenty more planned for our break.

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Richard’s Trees

We are lucky to have a good friend who has built up his own arboretum, a personal collection of the trees he loves, Elms, Liquidambers, Oaks, etc etc. But most of all our friend Richard loves Birches so he has built up a huge collection of Betulas from around the world. To get an invitation for a personal tour of Richard’s arboretum was a privilege and an exceptional honour.

So in mid-September we travelled a short distance to Ruyton-XI-Towns just north of Shrewsbury. Richard told us to look out for a lane outside the village and keep going along it until we spotted their yellow farmhouse. A beautiful bright red climbing rose greeted us as we entered their gravel driveway, and we soon received a very warm welcome from Richard and his wife Anne.

While touring the arboretum Richard’s knowledge and love for his trees became obvious to us. He knew the names of every tree and shrub, their botanic name, common name, their place of origin and even the name of the nursery or plantsmen from whom the trees had been sourced. He loved every tree and was proud of them too.

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Even though Richard could tell us the name of every tree he ensured that each was accurately and clearly labeled.

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Although he has collected many different trees his true love is the Betula family. Here is a small selection of this wonderful collection. As regular readers of my blog will know I am mad about Betulas so to be able to get close up to so many different ones from around the world was very special to me.

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But there was more to this arboretum than Birches. Just check out the selection below.

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That is just a small selection of the amazing range of trees to be found at Richard’s arboretum! There are so many delights you feel honoured to visit. To have a friend with his own arboretum is pretty special but to have a friend who also loves Betulas is even better. We have been invited back for another wonderful wander around Richard and Anne’s garden and arboretum in the autumn to see their trees in their autumnal costumes.