Monthly Archives: October 2013

Halloween

The Garden Smallholder

halloween pumpkins

Happy Halloween and Samhain blessings, have a great night and weekend x

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Humpback Whale off Norfolk

Letter From Norfolk

I made a prediction in July. I foresaw that within 5 years we would be watching a Humpback Whale off the Norfolk coastline. Having committed this to print in the latest Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report I was relived yesterday morning when Ryan Irvine called me to say he’d seen one off Hemsby. A first for Norfolk and four and a half years to spare! Good on ye Ryan.

It was later seen further north. I couldn’t make it there yesterday but did make it today and amazingly it was still offshore. Although distant it appeared to be breathing quite well and also feeding accompanied by a flock of diving Gannet.

It was as I was about to move on I noticed the whale had covered an inordinately large distance in a very short time. This of course is possible. They can move quickly. My mind momentarily slipped to asking…

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Pumpkin Parade

dianajhale

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No deep meaningful insights into life here, just a wonderful celebration of the season courtesy of Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Having had a summer of growing edible plants wherever possible, with their Global Kitchen Garden for example, and a pumpkin parade replacing the normal flowers in the beds lining the main walk to the Orangery, the fruits of this can now be seen. The water-lily house is transformed. The humble vegetable is given pride of place.

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Things to do during wild gardens week

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As it’s Wild About Gardens Week,  here are some practical ways that the RHA recommend to enhance your garden for wildlife, from feeding birds to building ponds. Get into the habit of doing these things and you’ll make a big difference to the wildlife you will find in your garden.

  • Plant a tree – they are important for attracting wildlife because they produce large amounts of nectar at blossom time.  They also attract mini-beasts that make their home in the bark, and birds come hunting them for food.
  • Make a log shelter – dead wood is both home and food for various beetle grubs and many tiny creatures that make a tasty snack for birds, hedgehogs and frogs. You can get logs from  tree surgeons or firewood dealers.
  • Build a bug mansion which will attract insects and other creatures into your garden. You can make the basic framework out of five wooden pallets, and you can fill the gaps with dead wood, straw, hay, dry leaves and holes for toads and bees.
  • Put in a pond – it will attract wildlife with amazing speed, including birds, amphibians, insects and mammals you might never see otherwise.
  • Build a compost café – it will reduce landfill, enrich your soil and attract wildlife. All you need is waste organic material, air and water. Or you should be able to get one from local councils, as many now offer compost bins at reduced prices in a bid to reduce landfill.

 

Go wild in the garden

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Pic: RHS/Tim Sandall

 

 

 

 

Today is the start of Wild About Gardens Week and gardeners and community groups across Britain are uniting in an effort to halt the decline of UK species. It’s community-led and everyone is invited to join in.

Hedgehog numbers have reduced by a third since the millennium and tortoiseshell butterflies, once common in gardens, have declined by 77%. The RHS and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) are spearheading a new initiative to help halt declines such as these, and are calling on the public to get involved in Wild About Gardens Week (25–31 October).

Chris Baines, Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The nation’s gardens are hugely important for wildlife and as a habitat network they are second to none”.

“There are many simple ways in which we can make our gardens naturally richer. Nest boxes, birdfeeders, log piles, nectar plants, fruiting shrubs, wall climbers and ponds provide valuable habitat; and, as each of us improves our garden for wildlife, the plants and animals that we attract bring more pleasure in return. It’s a win-win situation”

The RHS and TWT have teamed up to raise awareness and  talks and events will be held at the four RHS Gardens and TWT visitor centres throughout the week. There will also be wildflower seed giveaways by TWT and the public will be asked to ‘Do One Thing’ – whether this is to create a pond, build a hedgehog house or simply put out bird seed. TWT and RHS will be offering free advice and resources via Wild About Gardens and the RHS Advisory Service.

The RHS will encourage its 3,300 community gardening groups, 17,250 schools, 145 Partner Gardens and the public to hold wildlife gardening events. Groups and individuals can log events on the website. The first 200 registered groups to add events will receive free bulbs from the RHS.

Helen Bostock, RHS Horticultural Advisor, adds: “What’s most alarming at the moment is that many of the ‘common’ garden species – hedgehogs, house sparrows, and common frogs, for example – are becoming much less common. This is where gardeners can make a difference and help to halt the declines we’re seeing, by making their gardens more wildlife friendly. This should be a wake-up call to all of us.”

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Schools celebrate Biology Week with assemblies about wasting food

Schools around the UK celebrated Biology Week 2013 yesterday with assemblies about food waste, starting with an animated video produced for the event. UK households throw away 20% of the food they buy, and pupils will consider how we can reduce this huge wastage.

The animation was produced by the Society of Biology in partnership with Global Food Security, and is accompanied by notes about why we waste food and how we can reduce this. Food waste has been a theme of Biology Week 2013, and Professor Tim Benton, Global Food Security champion, spoke about the issue at a Parliamentary reception on Wednesday.

Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, says: “The volume of food we waste is staggering; collectively, households annually throw away 4.1 million tonnes of waste that could be avoided if people knew how to manage waste better. Young people are vital in tackling the problem, as consumers, and as the scientists, farmers, retailers and policy makers of tomorrow.

“We started Biology Week as a celebration of the life sciences, and biology’s contribution to reducing food waste – whether this is preventing loss of crops to pest and disease, or ensuring food stays safe for longer – is certainly something to celebrate.”

Biodiversity Offsetting – what impact will ‘offsetting’ have on ancient woodland?

Woodland Matters

One of our key principles for any biodiversity offsetting scheme is that ancient woodland should not be part of it. There are two questions within the Government’s offsetting Green Paper which offer support to that view, shown below with our view at this stage:

  • Do you agree with the proposed exceptions to the routine use of biodiversity offsetting? If not, why not? If you suggest additional restriction, why are they needed?

In the consultation Defra has identified a number of existing constraints on development including ancient woodland and SSSIs. We agree that any new offsetting scheme should not override pre-existing protection provided through planning legislation and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) specifically mentions that ancient woodland and trees should be given special consideration within planning decisions.

  •  Which habitats do you think should be considered irreplaceable?

The consultation identifies ancient woodland and limestone pavement as irreplaceable habitats which should not be…

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