31 July 2013

Yellow Flag Iris - Iris pseudacorus

Date Photographed: 01/06/2013
Location: Hope Nature Centre, Wiltshire
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_pseudacorus

30 July 2013

Red Horse Chestnut - Aesculus x carnea

Date Photographed: 01/06/2013
Location: Hope Nature Centre, Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.british-trees.com/treeguide/horsechestnut/nhmsys0000455625
Notes: This tree was created as a hybrid between Horse-chestnut and Red Buckeye. Sometimes the flowers on this tree start off creamy white and mature to pink or red.

29 July 2013

Yorkshire Fog grass - Holcus lanatus

Date Photographed: 27/07/2013
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorkshire_fog_grass

26 July 2013

Outdoor Swimming: Lacock

We'd heard that there was a swimming location in Lacock for as long as we've been outdoor swimming, but I guess we were a bit nervous about trying to find a location based just on information we found on the web - which mainly revolved around the words 'beach' and 'rapids'. Especially as the Wild Swim Map had the location for the Lacock swim near Malmesbury, the wrong side of the M4 by quite a few miles.

I had a good look on Google maps and found that there was a 'path' through the field that looked to be the right location based on the sources we'd found online. So in the end we thought, 'What the heck', and went to see if we could find it.

We parked at the National trust car park and walked over the bridge and into the field over the stone stile.
The bridge over the river.
There were cows in the field, but they weren't too interested in us - which always gives me some relief. I'm better with cows than I used to be, but not as good as I could be. We followed the 'path' that followed the river and we saw a beach mentioned that was for the cows. Shortly afterwards we heard the rapids. The online directions that we had been looking at were spot on as we can across a smaller beach and gently made it down the bank to the water.
Not too cold!
We had a lovely swim and could really feel the flow of the river. In the end I stayed in the same spot just throwing out enough strokes to keep me stationary. Lucy was adventurous and was swimming about like she owned the place!

Looking upstream.
After a while we saw a couple of lads up on the bank. Then a family came by in a canoe, which was novel.
Lucy swimming like a boss!
We saw that the lads were getting ready for a BBQ. So we decided to make our way out of the water and warm up with a cup of tea from our trusty flask; leaving the increasing number of lads to have the spot to themselves.
Warming up with a cuppa.
As we were walking back up to the stile, we pass a group of lasses around the same age as the lads. I guess they were going to have a fun afternoon frolicking - ah the joys of being young teenagers.

It's actually a really lovely spot. The roof of Lacock Abbey can be seen when swimming and when you're back up on the banks there are lovely views of the surrounding area. It's great to have yet another use for the tiny village of Lacock.

Coming back to Internet-Land I made a new swimming location for Lacock and asked the site maintainers to remove the one near Malmesbury, which I see they have done.

If you'd like to visit this spot, click here. Already been here? It'd be great to hear your experiences in the comments.

25 July 2013

24 July 2013

Spinach leaf miner - Pegomya hyoscyami

Symptoms: Damage to the spinach leaf as the larvae mine through the leaves creating a blister. The epidermis has been removed from one side of the leaf, in the top photo, to reveal the leaf miner.

Cause: Caused by a the spinach leaf miner. The fly emerges in spring, mates and lays eggs on the spinach leaves (as below). They eventually drop from the leaves into the soil to pupate - creating the next generation. There can be several generations each year.

Control: Stop the adults reaching the spinach by using covers. Keep the area weed-free. Rotate spinach, chard, and beet crops. Try using a Neem based spray which acts as a repellant and also slows the leafminers' ability to feed, interrupting the cycle. Advice on making neem spray can be found here - I don't know of its effectiveness.

23 July 2013

22 July 2013

Crested Dog's-Tail Grass - Cynosurus cristatus

Date Photographed: 22 and 27/06/2013
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynosurus_cristatus

19 July 2013

Outdoor Swimming: Return to Farleigh Hungerford

I originally posted about swimming at Farleigh Hungerford in September 2011. Illness had since prevented me from taking to the water for a year or so, but a seed had been planted in my head. Perhaps a few seeds actually. Lucy had mentioned that she wanted to go again, but I originally delayed because I was feeling so rubbish. Then mum started mentioning swimming, she'd started at her local pool and had become a member. Finally, we were having a look around Trowbridge library and which book jumped out at me? None other than the outdoor swimmer's bible: Waterlog by Roger Deakin.

I just couldn't get swimming out of my mind. I knew I couldn't do to an indoor pool as I'd tried that a couple of times earlier in the year and the environment and the amount of people just made me feel worse than before I'd entered the water. But maybe, just maybe, I could handle it at Farleigh. I knew the place and the day wasn't so sunny that it would be busy.

So on Saturday 25 May in the afternoon, I mentioned to Lucy that perhaps we should give it a go. I'd try to swim, I said, but if not that I'd take Waterlog and just read while she swam.

We got there just after 3pm and met a couple that had tried the water, but were now bringing their wetsuits from the boot of their car. This worried me a bit, but I decided I'd try anyway.

Over the weir

I stepped in and was greeted by very cold water! Very cold. I walked around and stepped back onto the weir to 'have a look' at the wild life. Realising I'd have to go in, I braced myself and as our new friends had gotten in with their wetsuits, I decided to swim.

I managed a couple of lengths before running out of energy. After one length I'd warmed up enough to feel comfortable. A family turned up for a quick dip. Everyone seemed astonished at such masculinity - a person getting in the water without a wetsuit! Everyone, that is, except me. It was perhaps rather foolish, but needs must.

Up river. The way we swim
It was really great fun swimming in the midge-infested water. While I felt tired and achy from the excursion, I felt much better than when I'd been to our indoor pool.
Here's me and Lucy at the end of our swim. Luckily the sun came out in the end and we were able to dry off with a KitKat and a cup of tea! A short walk along the path to the camp site yealded some really interesting species - a male orange-tip butterfly and some crosswort. Then Lucy drove us home. Exhausted, but content.

To become a member, visit the Stowford Manor Farm Website where you'll also find information about camping.

If you'd like to visit this spot, click here. Already been here? It'd be great to hear your experiences in the comments.

17 July 2013

Large Red Damselfy - Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Date Photographed: 01/06/2013
Location: Hope Nature Centre, Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.british-dragonflies.org.uk/species/large-red-damselfly

16 July 2013

Meadow Vetchling - Lathyrus pratensis

Date Photographed: 15/06/2013
Location: St. Giles, Stanton St. Quintin
Resources: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/meadow-vetchling

15 July 2013

Common vetch - Vicia sativa

Date Photographed: 25/05/2013
Location: Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset
Resources: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Vicia+sativa

12 July 2013

Book Review: Waterlog

For those of you that have been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I reviewed Roger Deakin's Wild Wood a while back. I felt that the book was around double the length that it should have been and that Deakin was just adding stories to pad the book out.

This book, however, was different. Waterlog is known by many as a classic of natural history writing. As such it doesn't need much introduced, suffice to say that Deakin sets out to swim in many places wild and tame through Britain.

The first one hundred and fifty pages were like soaking in a hot and relaxing bath, but again I found the water getting tepid and cold. I don't know what it is about Deakin's writing, but I know it must be me. Plenty of people read and rave about Deakin and while I can see why, after time the writing gets a tad monotonous. However, I can say that I finished the book, and that I'm glad I did.

Those first hundred and fifty pages really got me thinking about swimming again. I'd tried the local pool a few months prior to beginning the book and found it too hot, too crowded, and too corrosive. This book got me back outdoors, to familiar haunts and new ones.

Shortly after the point of perseverance, I was remembered what I do like about Deakin's writing. Starting with his wicked sense of humour in the story of animal tracking and otter spraint being passed around. I also enjoy that Deakin really lets us in to what must be deep feelings of worry and joy that he experiences throughout his journey. I feel that you can tell when Deakin  is at one with what he's writing because we are presented with silky smooth writing such as
'To feel its balmy softness in every limb, at every stroke, was a kind of heaven'

Reaching the last chapter had me feeling like I'd been there. I'd taken an epic journey across Britain. Deakin manages to pack in layers and layers of facts, but they're totally digestible and don't feel cumbersome. They're surrounded by local tales and left me wanting to visit umpteen places described in the book. The final chapter sees Deakin 18 months after his fist book-related swim. He needs one more swimming adventure to settle him. That adventure is a bike-swim. Starting at the moat outside of his home, he then bikes to many places in his county of Suffolk that he can swim. Eventually we leave him swimming in the sea.

This is a classic. It's natural history writing combined with autobiography. Deakin lets us get to know him through his writing. He also passes on his infectious desire to swim wherever water can be found. Thanks to him there have been a wave of wild swimming books and a community of outdoor swimmers has steadily built up online, providing lots of local knowledge about places that we can swim throughout our lovely country.

11 July 2013

10 July 2013

Green-winged Orchid - Orchis morio

Date Photographed: 18/05/2013
Location: Sutton Lane Meadows, Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/plant_species/green-winged_orchid/
Notes: Notable for the sepals that have green veins, especially easy to see on the white flower.

09 July 2013

Snowdrop windflower - Anemone sylvestris

Date Photographed: 22/05/2013
Location: Portway, Warminster
Resources: http://www.perennials.com/plants/anemone-sylvestris.html

08 July 2013

05 July 2013

Book Review: Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe (New Generation Guide)

This is quite probably one of the best books on plants that I have ever read!

Quite a claim to make, isn't it? Well hopefully this review will validate my claim. The book was published in 1987 by Collins in their New Generation Guide series, making it quite old - especially considering that it presents botanical information, a field of research that is continually being updated. Marketed as 'Two books in one', it is sectioned into three parts. Beginning with a short section on the evolution of flowering plants, before moving on to a directory of over 1400 wild flowers in north-west Europe before closing with a section on the natural history of wild flowers.

It is written by Alastair Fitter, famed for his part in the Collins Pocket Guide Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe, with Richard Fitter and Marjorie Blame. That pocket guide is one of the very few that was recommended continually when I was looking for a keyed identification guide. I was lucky enough to be given a copy by the same person that lent me this New Generation Guide.

The first part of the book, I found difficult to read for some reason - although it is worth reading.The second part, the directory, is sectioned into families and their is a key explaining the families before the directory begins. Each entry has a small, but well done, illustration, followed by a short description. The directory is closed with an appendix of scarce species in Britain, which no illustrations.

The third part is what made the book for me. It covers a massive amount of information, held within 140 pages. Yet, it is perfectly readable and I found myself reading larger and larger chunks as the book progressed! It's organised into subjects, for example, seeds. Which is then separated into sub-sections that are each 2 pages long, an exampling being seed dispersal by animals: external transport. There are many wonderful illustrations and the author provides many examples of plants for every topic and adaptation that is discussed in the book.

The author is also very clear when there is no (when the book was published) answer to the questions he raises. Disappointingly, there are no newer editions of this book. The book was published in a size format that was for taking out in the field, perhaps this proved unsuccessful - which is understandable for anyone who has the Collins Pocket Guide previously mentioned. This book is just too general and lacks much of the detail required for and ID guide. The last section, however is wonderful and it's broad, but detailed sweep of the natural history of plants. I will certainly be on the look out for any book that offers an updated view of the topics discussed here.

The book definitely works well in as an introductory text on wild flowers and I hope you can see why I enjoyed it so much.

Now for my scores on the review matrix:

Own or Loan:         Loan
Read Again:           Yes
Recommend:          Yes
Overall out of Five: 4

Do you perhaps know of a book that does offer an updated view of the natural history of plants? If so, let me know in the comments!

03 July 2013

Begonia rainforest mix

Date Photographed: 22/05/2013
Location: Portway, Warminster
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begonia
Notes: Called 'Rainforest Mix' on plant label. If anyone knows the actual name, please let me know in the comments.