SEPTEMBER 2019 AND THE NIGHTS ARE DRAWING IN.

The month started with a few days to myself as Richard was attending a conference in Sheffield. I missed him of course, but found it liberating to run on my own timetable – to eat – sleep- read – walk and attend to the garden as and when I wanted.
Among other things I planted lots of Mexican Fleabane – Erigeron karvinskianus all along the edge of the drive. This pretty daisy-like flower has been a favourite of mine since I first saw it growing on castle walls in Kent in the early 1970’s. I didn’t see it again for many years but latterly it has become popular and is available in many garden centres. I am hoping that it will seed into the cracks and crevices all around the garden paths.

An Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar surprised us by feasting on Purple Loosestrife in the river garden. We had seen them on Rosebay Willowherb in our Islay garden and Purple Loosestrife doesn’t appear on our list of food plants but this one was definitely eating its way along the petals.

Five days of solitude were more than enough and Richard returned just in time to give his talk – Our Life in the Hebrides – to our local Hanwood WI. He then took me to The Cotswolds, an area completely new to me. We paused at Tintern Abbey but I had a wasp sting on my ring finger and failed to take any photographs because we had to make a hasty retreat to find a chemist. I always react badly to wasp stings and, foolishly I had failed to pack antihistamine medication. Luckily I remembered to remove my ring as when the same thing happened to me years ago my finger swelled so badly that the ring had to be cut off. Even with the medication I had a couple of disturbed nights and a week before the effect began to wear off. Wasps are wonderful creatures but they have made me suffer so many times that I am very wary of them. And a sting always reminds me of Dylan Thomas who, in his list of useless presents in ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ included ‘books which tell me everything about the wasp except why’.

A cottage at Kingswood made a convenient base for five days of exploration. I had heard about the beauty of the villages with their watercourses and pretty cottages, but, like so many attractive places, they were crowded with visitors and a brisk walk around was more than enough. Newark Park with an adjacent field of poppies was more to our taste.

Richard ventured into Uley Long Barrow, a partially reconstructed Neolithic chambered mound that overlooks the Severn Valley. It’s known locally as Hetty Pegler’s Tump, after Hester Pegler who owned the land in the 17th century.

On the outskirts of Cirencester we walked round the remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain. It took a great deal of imagination to conjure up those scenes of long ago when the terraced sides of the arena were filled with 8,000 spectators.

A walk up a hill and a climb to the top of the 111 foot high Tyndale Monument gave far-reaching views in all directions. The tower was built in 1866 in honour of William Tyndale, a translator of the New Testament, who was born nearby.

The fourteenth century wool stores of Arlington Row in Bibury were converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century. They were much admired by William Morris and are reputed to be the most photographed houses in the England.

They are indeed picturesque but there were so many tourists that it was not easy to take photographs. We were surprised that the majority of visitors were Japanese, but later learned that the village is famous in Japan because Emperor Hirohito stayed in the village during his European tour of 1921.
We walked away from the village along the river Coln, a tributary of the Thames, and were delighted to see our first ever view of a grass snake swimming

Bourton-on-the-Water, on the banks of the river Windrush, is undoubtedly beautiful but, once again, it was hard to see the details for the crowds of people. I know we would prefer to see it in the middle of winter when the streets are empty.

I don’t often buy myself a present, but once in a while, when on holiday, something catches my eye. I found this giraffe, made by Ocean Sole Africa in a lovely little shop in Wotton-under-edge in the Cotswolds. Ocean Sole’s mission is to turn flip-flop pollution into inspiring art to promote marine conservation and to provide employment and opportunities in underdeveloped countries. So far they have collected and upcycled over 450 tonnes of discarded flip-flops from Asia, Middle East, India and Africa where over 3 billion people wear them. Each item is hand carved after the flip-flops have been bonded together.

On the way back to Shropshire we enjoyed a walk round the terraced gardens of Snowshill Manor.

But were very disappointed with those at Hidcote. We had heard so much about them that we expected something spectacular. So it was sad to see thay they appeared somewhat neglected with bare patches in the borders and a lack of deadheading which would have prolonged the display of flowers. Being used to the immaculate ground of Powis Castle we had expected Hidcote to be even more spectacular and we were glad that we had spent most of our time at Snowshill which definitely warrants a further visit.

Back home again, Richard’s talks are becoming increasingly popular as people spread the word that he provides excellent illustrated talks. The 23rd found us near Dudley presenting a talk entitled Our Life in The Hebrides. The journey was difficult though. We were due to arrive at 6.30 but an accident en route kept us in a traffic jam for half an hour and when we reached the outskirts of Dudley another accident caused a diversion. There were no parking spaces at the hall and Richard had to drive round the neighbouring streets until he found one. We are relatively new at giving talks and every venue is different so in future we will request a reserved parking space near the entrance as we have heavy equipment to carry. The talk went down well but unfortunately, with all the hassle, I forgot to take a photograph.
That was remedied on the 26th when we gave a talk about The Botanist Gin to the Sandbach Cottage Garden Society.

Determined to be in good time we left home in the morning, took a picnic lunch and explored Beeston Castle during the afternoon.

An unexpected bonus was joining the group who were celebrating the completion of their bronze age round house; an impressive achievement constructed entirely by hand using traditional tools and materials.

As we reach the end of September the garden is looking increasingly autumnal with the Liquidamber turning red and many of our wild plants going to seed.
Heavy rain has filled the river but it is managing to keep inside the banks. The random fence we constructed along one boundary of the garden is already partally covered with climbers and a recently planted Clematis tangutica, although still small, is flowering beautifully. But my greatest success has been the Cosmos which I grew from seed. At 1.5 metres in height its flowers, in shades of pink, continue to bloom and there are may buds still to come.