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A spring time canal walk

We love to take gentle strolls along canal towpaths once stepped on by the large feet of horses pulling barges. At this time of year leaves are coming out from their buds, wildflowers are beginning to flower and birds are becoming more active.

We began just outside the Welsh market town of Welshpool and walked away from the town. As we moved further away more wildflowers were showing themselves, some plants of the hedgerow or woodland edge. They seemed happy living by a canal.


We walked past a swing bridge, a beautifully balanced piece of machinery. Later we found another which proved too much for Jude and Vicky to resist trying out.

Not long after we reached the point at which we planned to turn back, Pool Quay. We stopped for a coffee before making the return wander back along the towpath. We found a few surprises, an old door with no purpose and a beautiful nesting swan who gave us a hard stare as we walked past. Her partner hissed and flared his wings at us when we met him further along the canal.

We love canal side walks and often return to this path to stretch our legs.



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The Dingle Garden in November

Back to wander around the gardens at the Dingle near Welshpool, for our November visit. We expected big changes after recent strong winds and heavy rain. We did not anticipate seeing many leaves left on deciduous trees and shrubs, but hoped for signs of late autumn colours in foliage and berries.

The first pic at the start of this post shows one leaf that was still hanging on against all odds, even after all our recent strong winds and storms. Below is a selection of photos of flowers still going strong in the woodland garden, some late blooms from the summer and some early winter blooms.


Throughout the woodland garden where there was a clearing the ground was covered in low growing perennials often covered with a carpet of fallen leaves.


During our visits over the year to The Dingle Gardens there has been an area that has been much wetter than elsewhere, often with water running off the bank across the paths and on down to the lake. On this visit we noticed and heard that work was in hand to add extra drainage systems to rectify the problem.


Berries are signs of the year’s end, there to help keep the plant populations viable.  Alongside them in this garden of trees and shrubs there were signs of new life in the form of leaf and flower buds waiting to unfold for us to enjoy in the future.

There was so much to enjoy as we wandered the garden paths that I took lots of photographs, so I thought I would finish our November post about our Dingle Garden visits with a photo gallery. As usual click on the first photo and navigate using the right arrow.

So just one more post to go which will be for our December visit to this wonderful woodland garden.

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The Dingle Garden in April

We made our April visit to this year’s chosen garden for monthly visits expecting to enjoy all the freshness of early spring. How wrong could we be! The day dawned cold and misty and as we walked around the gravel paths we got more damp with each step as we were walking in a gentle mist. We felt as if we were wandering around the garden on a typical November day definitely not an April day.

Mist hung among the trees and rain droplets hung from buds and branches.

We expected to be able to enjoy early flowering shrubs like rhododendrons and azaleas, but there were just a few as the seasons are still lagging behind. A beautiful bright yellow flowered Berberis really brightened the gloom and an orange flowered variety glowed through the shrubs like beacons. Both of these Berberis added a little welcome scent to the walk.


Some Rhododendrons were flowering well while others still showed tight buds. At this time of year every little flower on the shrubs is so powerful.


We made our way down towards the lake enjoying the misty views out across the water. When we arrived at the bankside we walked the perimeter and all the way we could see the glow of the yellow-flowered Skunk Cabbage growing on the water’s edge.


As we wandered back along the gravel paths we spotted odd flowering perennials and bulbs giving patches of colour in the shade of the shrubs.


We were once again surprised by the lack of changes on this month’s visit, but as with anything to do with Mother Nature there was plenty for us to look at and consider. Perhaps on our next visit, which will be in May, we will experience the presence of spring.

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The Dingle Gardens Welshpool – January

Here we are back visiting our chosen garden each month, with our garden for 2018 being the attached garden at The Dingle Nurseries near Welshpool. This garden is of a totally different scale, atmosphere and style to Attingham Park, our garden for 2017. The garden is open every day of the year bar Christmas Day and on odd days the fees go to the National Garden Scheme.

The nursery is stocked with perennials, shrubs and trees but specialises mostly in the last two, and it is from here that we tend to buy our trees and shrubs. This is a nursery we are delighted to have on our dooorstep. As we move through the entrance we always enjoy the displays of plants with current interest and similarly plants for winter interest and displayed in the first few rows of plants.


So, here we are on the 14th January with our first visit to our new garden, arriving on a dull lightly overcast day. Having never visited before this deep into winter, we entered through the wooden gate green with algae and followed the gravel paths into the garden, not quite knowing what to expect. We enjoy surprises in the gardens we visit!

Evergreens both coniferous and broadleaves lined the paths and are planted in thoughtful groupings. In the first photo a dark, glossy leaved Pittosporum “Tom Thumb” sits comfortably with a Euphorbia, a Brachyglottis and a Hebe. In the second picture two conifers illustrate how different they can be in texture, colour and form.


Early in our wanderings we found this lovely rustic seat which is slowly being eroded away by the weather. Close by the seat glowed the pale green flowers of a Helleborus foetidus.


Hydrangeas appear throughout the garden in the autumn showing their colourful inflorescences in pinks, white and blues, while throughout the winter these colours fade to biscuits, gingers and ivory. In some flowers hints of blues and pinks remain.


Out of season flowers appear here and there on odd shrubs, on others leaf buds promise fresh growth in the spring while berries hang as remnants of their winter harvest.

When tree surgery work is carried out in the Dingle Garden logs are left as habitats for the many forms of wildlife that maintain a healthy ecosystem in the garden.


At the lowest point of the gardens a calm lake affords us a place to stop awhile to look around its banks. A bog garden at one end looks dull and dark at this time of year, with just the deep brown of dead leaves of Gunnera and Lysichiton americanus rising above the mud.

Recent heavy snowfall has caused damage to trees and shrubs, breaking branches of all sizes and crushing foliage. Strong winter winds have added to the damage.


To share more of my photos taken during our wandering and enjoyment of the gardens at the Dingle I have created the following gallery. Enjoy the pictures. The next visit to this garden will be in February.


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A Birthday Excursion to The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway

We usually go out somewhere on both of our birthdays so today being my birthday, Jude, The Undergardener, decided to take me on a nostalgic trip on an old steam railway line. We often pass the stations and see the track. At times while journeying down the River Banwy valley the track runs quite close to the road out into mid-Wales and towards some of our favourite stretches of coastline.

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We drove in to the car park of the Welshpool Raven Square Station, parked up and bought our tickets, which were just like the ones we could remember as children, little card ones which the Guardsman clipped while we sat on the train waiting to leave.

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The station building looked so small as we wandered up the path once inside we discovered that a booking office and waiting room were squeezed into it. When we went through the station and onto the platform the building showed its true dimensions.

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Interesting old signs caught our attention wherever we went. In the waiting room artifacts from the railway’s previous life added authentication.

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We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the hoot of the little steam engine approaching the platform.

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The little engine proudly displayed its name, Countess, on the side of its boilers.

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Once steam was up and the Guard waved his green flag the little train moved very slowly away from the station and we travelled along the beautiful valley of the River Banwy.

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After enjoying so much beautiful countryside we arrived at the end of the little narrow guage line at the station at Llanfair Caereinion. Here we refreshed ourselves with coffee and cake while the engine topped up with water and coal in readiness for the return to Welshpool.

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We found more authentic old items from the days of steam at this station too mixed up with little patches of colourful gardens.

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Before climbing back on board and sitting on the hard wooden benches that were our seats, we took a few moments enjoying looking close up at our engine “Countess”. She positively sparkled as every surface had been rigorously polished, buffed, oiled or greased.


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The journey back along the valley gave us the chance to enjoy different views of the surrounding landscape.

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As soon as all the passengers had disembarked the little old locomotive squeaked its way a little further down the rail track to the water tower and drank thirstily.

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After this delightful day of memories and nostalgia we promised ourselves a day on the old barges on the canal at Llangollen and of course there are all those other narrow guage railways scattered throughout Wales to indulge ourselves with!


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Over the hills to the sea.

To see in the new year we intended to go to the sea simply to walk along the beach and enjoy the fresh sea air. But it was not to be, for 1st January 2014 was a day of storms and strong winds so we delayed for a day.

We woke on the 2nd to a far finer dawn. So we set off out of Shropshire and over the Welsh hills to the coast at the little old seaside town of Barmouth. A favourite place to visit, Barmouth is where we have spent so many days as our children grew up and indeed many on our own after they left home. When with the kids we collected pebbles and shells and built sand castles with occasional trips across the sands to paddle in the sea. These days we still collect pebbles and shells and Jude is still tempted to paddle a little.

The journey involved following just two main “A” roads once we left the Shrewsbury bypass behind, the A458 and the A470. After leaving our home county of Shropshire behind we crossed into Wales and traveled east to west right across the counties of Powys and Gwynedd. Along the way we regularly stopped to take shots of the landscape. It is amazing how varied the landscape can be in such a short journey.

The A458 main road from Shrewsbury to Welshpool cuts through rich lowland dairy cattle farmland before reaching the hills called the Breiddens.

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We passed through the market town of Welshpool and followed the road down a valley which the road shared with a narrow guage steam railway, a favourite of tourists. Farms appeared to snuggle into the valley bottoms where water lay in many fields after so much winter rain. High bare rounded mountains began to rear up each side of the valley. The mountains were dotted with clumps of woodland some of natural broadleaf trees while others were of the coniferous commercial forest plantings. The winter time leaves the broadleaf trees bare showing their skeletons. White branches like bones of many trees were broken up by the colourful branches of birches, which looked  like soft hanging purple mist. In places along ancient hedgerows black skeletons of oak broke up the horizon. The conifer plantations just looked like unfriendly, unnatural solid black blocks, scars on the landscape.

Clouds moved quickly and rain came and went with them lit up on odd special occasions by a rainbow.

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As we progressed further into the mountains of mid-Wales the sky turned a deep grey-blue but shafts of sunlight still penetrated to light up green fields and the occasional grey stone farmhouses.

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After crossing mid-Wales westward we neared the coast and our journey took us more in a northerly direction for the final section. See “Over the hills to the sea. Part Two” for the next stage of the journey.

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Two Welshpool Town Gardens

June’s Hardy Plant Society garden visit took us to two little town gardens. The first garden was truly tiny and the second slightly less tiny. They were perfect if very different examples of what it is possible to achieve in such small spaces. The secret to them both was wriggly paths leading the eyes and feet around to discover hidden secrets.

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The tiniest of the two had planting at all levels from tiny specimens right by your toes to trees above your head and the borders were full of unusual plants. Little surprises.

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The gardeners here even found room for an alpine house, a fruit cage and a couple of little water features.

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Humour is essential in any garden however small.

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Humour reigned supreme in the second garden we visited that morning. There were interesting arches, grottoes, seating areas all surrounded in lush planting.

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Hidden throughout this little patch were containers planted up skilfully to give surprises wherever we turned.

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Deep in the heart of this little paradise we came across a cool enclosed garden where we found ourselves in for a real treat – a little glimpse of the Far East.

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This garden was tightly fitted within a group of houses close by the town’s main church and occasionally we caught glimpses of these other buildings through the foliage.

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Atop one of the many little outbuildings lived a very healthy and happy green roof.

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This was a very special garden – a place to relax and become engulfed in plants. In the afternoon we met again as a group to enjoy a very different garden in a very different setting. We found ourselves out in the open high up on a hillside with big skies above a wide view. This garden features in my next post.

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The Dingle – A Welsh Garden Wonder

Close to Welshpool, just a half hour from home across the Welsh border, are our favourite nursery and garden centre, The Dingle and The Derwen, part of the same family. They sell unusual trees and shrubs and many good-value perennials all locally grown. But hidden away in the Dingle nursery, through a little wooden gate is a wonderful sloping garden. The garden is mostly a wonderful collection of unusual trees and shrubs on a gentle slope down to a lake, so a visit in the autumn is an assault on the senses.

The nursery which is now over 40 years old, grows thousands of plants on its 150 acres of Welsh countryside. We rarely come away without a gem – and they give free coffee away too!

The garden itself extends to just four acres, but those four acres feel much larger than expected with a complex network of paths which give occasional views which are wide and stunning. This is good garden design.

As the paths take us around corners they feature interesting, colourful shrubs and trees to delight the eye before enticing us to find out what is around the next corner.

Being on a slope, the garden’s many seats are most warmly welcomed by aching legs.

Some of the seating provides cover which proved useful a few times as showers burst from the dark sky just visible through gaps in the trees.

Coloured, textured foliage and bark keep the interest of the plant lover in us going strong and enticing us around each corner.

As in any good garden little cameos stop us in our tracks and catch the eye.

The lake at the lowest point of the garden, provides a restful place – restful to the eye and restful to the legs.

Strong contrasts in foliage colour show up in the brighter weather as we work our way back up the paths to the gate.

As in any garden specialising in trees and shrubs the stars of the autumn are the Acers.

Back up the top of the garden we pass through the little wooden gate and are tempted for a perusal of the colourful nursery beds.

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A Walk along the Montgomery Canal – There and Back – Part 2 Back

My last ramblings left us just as we retreated into the shelter of the wooded bank of the canal, through the little wooden gate. Inviting as the shelter was I was tempted to linger and photograph the silvered wood and rusted, pitted ironwork on the gate.

It always surprises me just how different a return journey can be. Different things catch the eye, different sounds invade the ear, different scents entice the nose for a closer appreciation. We found wild flowers, trees and bushes that we had not spotted on our way and enjoyed different reflections on the mirrored surface of the canal.

When we reached  the spot where we had stopped for a coffee break on the way we stopped once again and leant on the same gate, but it was not quite a case of deju vu.

From our coffee-drinking, gate-leaning vantage point we  watched sheep grazing on the field beyond the far-bank trees and spotted a long, low red-bricked barn half way up the sloping field.

The footbridge that passed over our heads provided ample opportunities for some creative picture-taking.

These little banded snails with their glossy coloured shells decorated with chocolate or black bands which followed the spiralling shape of their shell homes, began to appear after the shower of rain.

Canalside paraphernalia draws attention along any towpath walk, bringing to mind queries and questions of their uses and names. This first object was a simple arch of iron appearing from the ground and disappearing about a dozen feet further along the towpath. We couldn’t work out what its purpose  could possibly be but it did present a graceful archway in the grass.

As we follow the last stretch of the Montgomery Canal back to our starting point of a few hours earlier we can look at the different native plants we found and views of the canal that we enjoyed.

What an inspiring way to spend an afternoon that presented us with uninspiring weather. We enjoyed this wander very much were saddened to see that in such a beautiful place the selfishness and laziness of a few can leave their mark – plastic litter, probably one of the most damaging marks of man’s existence.

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A Walk along the Montgomery Canal – There and Back. – Part 1 There

Fed up with the constant rain yesterday we decided we would defy it once again, get our walking boots and waterproof jackets on and go for a walk. We felt like wandering alongside water but as the nearby River Severn and Rea Brook were both flooded we set off for the Montgomery Canal. A half hour drive took us to Welshpool, just into Wales, and surprisingly as we got nearer the rain gave over and we were treated to a dry walk. Dry overhead but very wet and muddy underfoot. I had new walking boots to settle in and make sure they didn’t look new. This was just perfect conditions to knock the shine off them and make them look a bit more lived in and more loved.

The tiny car park at Buttington Wharf holds a half-dozen or so cars and we were surprised to find three others parked up before us. Other lovers of the great outdoors fed up with the rain? On the banks of the canal just through the trees we spied this sculpture of a jolly looking character – David Jones. He was a lime-kiln owner and coal merchant back in the early 1800’s, and we found signs of the kilns nearby. No wonder he looked jolly – he must have been a rich man.  A symbol based on his working lime kilns was cut out of the metal information board.

In the surrounding greenery, well-hidden under trees and bushes we found some old brickwork, the remains of the kiln entrances.

After this discovery  we set off along the mud of the towpath under the trees dripping with rain. It looked so inviting. It didn’t disappoint!

The canal side was lined with trees and mature hedgerows, which occasionally opened up to give windows onto the local Welsh countryside.

After the rough weather in the morning wildlife was not much in evidence, the skies empty and the trees quiet but this female Mallard fed busily in the far reed-lined margin. But as the day moved on and with the passing of time the weather improved, birds re-appeared and their celebratory song accompanied us for the rest of our waterside wandering. The Mallard created shimmering shapes in the reflections as she busied herself.

The wild flowers decorating the towpath and canal banks were like sparkling jewels glowing in the dull light.

One wild flower shone out like a yellow globe having burst through the surface of the water – one of our native waterlilies.

As we walked, on the light changed and the canal surface reflected the bankside vegetation, the boats moored up against its side and the canal structures.

Half way along our outward journey a coffee stop called and we leant on a gate near a swing bridge and rested awhile.

As we ambled onwards the land alongside the canal opened up and through bankside trees we could view farmland. The thin line of trees appeared as silhouetted sinuous shapes, emphasised by their reflections mirrored on the water. My camera and I enjoyed the challenge presented when trying to get a reasonable shot of reflections.

The countryside changed as we continued our ramblings and each opportunity of a broad landscape view, afforded us by breaks in the vegetation was appreciated.

We reached the lock at Pool Quay, the point in our walk where we decided to turn back.

As we enjoyed our exploration of Pool Quay lock and the break from walking the rain returned. The little wooden gate invited us to begin our journey back especially as the tree-lined bank promised shelter.