Week 15th November

Monday 16th November – There are so many small birds in the garden now, they must be needing to supplement their natural food. This morning there were 4 chaffinch in the cherry tree and the goldfinches are back for the first time in a while. The robin of course is always there, and the blackbird family is back too – an adult pair and two juvenile males (no yellow beak yet). We are not putting out any food for them at the moment, there are still berries in the garden and it is mild so far.

Tuesday 17th November – After last week’s windy weather all the non-evergreen leaves are finally off the garden trees. They are in sodden carpets but at least now they are all down there is only one more clearing up operation to do. Into town for the dentist this morning and a walk along the Esplanade. The tide is really high and clearly has been over the sea wall, there was sand and shingle everywhere. And too many people just mooching about. So much for lockdown.

Wednesday 18th November – Cold and wet. Trow Hill is shrouded in mist and our view of the sea has disappeared. Every branch and leaf in the garden is hanging with moisture diamonds. It is so dark we have the lights on and the fire lit from mid-day. I take the opportunity to snuggle under a blanket on the sofa and knit gloves for Christmas presents. Productive lounging.

Thursday 19th November – Blue sky and sunshine are deceiving from indoors. When we go for our walk it’s cold enough for scarf and hats. The sea is pigeon-breast blue with a dazzling stream of dancing silver light along the path of the sun’s reflection. We sit on a bench and drink steaming coffee from a flask. There are dunnocks investigating the piles of fallen leaves in front of us and a late Red Admiral blunders softly against my hair before rising into the trees behind. The sun lights the cliffs in red and gold and white from Sidmouth and Salcombe Regis to Branscombe and Beer. Further on we can see the hazy far sweep of Lyme Bay where it curves out to Portland.

Friday 20th November – Gloomy, cold and wet. It would be lovely to have more than 24 hours of dry weather. Heigh ho, I guess it’s pretty normal for November. A small grey squirrel is fidgeting across the lawn, stop start, stop start, from one side to the other then leaps up into the acer and disappears into the cover of the eleagnus. The wood pigeons and the robin are dodging the raindrops, but both look bedraggled, doing their best to shelter in the bare trees.

Week 8th November

Monday 9th November – Bright and sunny, an occasional shower but nothing very much. We spend some time tidying the front garden – cutting down the spent nerines, sweeping up leaves (so many leaves!), and pulling up the remaining leeks before they start to flower. The robin, as always, accompanies us, singing and twittering. Overnight we leave on the light at the front door to remember ‘Kristallnacht’ the night of November 9–10, 1938, when German Nazis attacked Jewish people and property. It’s a small gesture, but remembering is important.

Tuesday 10th November – Another day of leaf blowing and sweeping. They go into a container, a bit of chicken wire, to rot down for leaf mould. It takes a while but the result is good, crumbly stuff for mulching.

Wednesday 11th November – Rain all day, heavy and persistent. Windy too and so we hunker down inside. Some time for me to concentrate on Christmas knitting. As the weather gets wilder and gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour set in I decide on knitting warm gloves. We watch the Cenotaph service on TV and as always feel the sadness and futility of war. Outside the fir trees thrash and toss and the hill and the sea are both lost in low cloud. Properly Novembery.

Thursday 12th November – After yesterday’s rough weather, today is calmer and brighter. Warm enough to bring out a huge queen bumblebee to tap against the sitting room window before she sails off haphazardly over the hedge. Not able to make a definite identification, it’s most likely a buff-tailed bumblebee as they are known to forage in the winter months. Other species hibernate, although warm spells may bring them out to feed.

Friday 13th November – Blue skies and sunshine. We go out for our usual walk, to find hordes of people walking the promenade and up in the cliff gardens, far too many to be able to keep a sensible distance. Even in a second lockdown a lot of people don’t seem to be altering their behaviour. We decide to walk on the beach instead, where there are only one or two intrepid dog walkers. It’s strenuous walking as the beach here is made up of large, rounded cobbles, real ‘ankle-turners’, but the breeze off the sea is refreshing and the sound of the water is always a joy. On the strand line there are large amounts of seaweed – wracks, kelp and seagrass mostly. There are occasional razor clam shells, even a couple of oyster shells.

Week 1st November

Monday 2nd November – Just beyond the sitting room window, a pair of pheasants sit, glossily surveying the empty vegetable patch. Surely the cock pheasant is a bird made from Autumn? Russet, chestnut, beech-brown body feathers, the subtle green/black/blue irridiscence of his neck, a stark white clerical collar and too-close-to-the-bonfire red face wattling. Even the female looks like a bundle of mottled Autumn leaf mould, all the browns and black flecks of field camouflage blurring her appearance. The female wanders off, the male splutters into life and with a flurry of short wings and a loud ‘cock, cock-cock’, lifts over the hedge into next door’s garden.

Tuesday 3rd November – Showery. Not quite enough time between showers to make it worthwhile doing anything in the garden. We go to buy bulb fibre and horticultural grit in the hopes of a dry spell and bulb planting tomorrow. The Garden Centre is a nightmare of people browsing tat that has no relevance to Christmas whatsoever, but is very sparkly, very twee, or festooned with lights. We hunt unsuccessfully for weedkiller and compost, in the end resorting to flagging down an assistant who rolls his eyes and points us in the right direction. Just how many singing reindeer/dancing snowmen/long-legged, soft toy elves can a small rural population want to buy? Madness.

Wednesday 4th November – The most glorious day. The sky is a whole paint chart of blues – azure, cerulean, sapphire, turquoise, ultra-marine? They are all there, merging and shading imperceptibly into each other. The moon hangs, like a ghost of itself in the eastern sky, one edge dissolving into waning, the grey markings of its mountains and seas blurrily visible. Bright sun lights the woods on the hill, the yellows and golds have a sumptuousness that only comes at this time of the year.

Thursday 5th November – A bit more cloud today and a sharp easterly breeze that just about lifts the washing on the line, but won’t dry it. The bed where we plant to plant most of the bulbs is now half dug over and we can start to get going. The eremurus first, not bulbs but those strange, spidery, tuberous things with a crown. A bit like asparagus they have to sit on a little mound of grit to keep them well drained. Once they’re in place we finally get two potted geum into the ground, Totally Tangerine and Scarlet Tempest. The resident robin keeps a beady eye on us all morning.

Friday 6th November – There is a haze of sea mist this morning. Sea and sky are indistinguishable. A watery sun is trying to penetrate the clouds but is unlikely to prevail. Two herring gull fly towards the sea, in no hurry, they twist and turn over the gardens. There are a few wasps still around, circling the top of the hedge, but they are getting less frequent and certainly slower. A single magpie dips into the liquidambar tree across the road – one for sorrow. I scan the sky for a second one.

Week 25th October

Monday 26th October – Cool and breezy. Spent some time digging up the remaining parsnips and clearing this year’s veg bed. Next year the veg will move to a new space cleared (almost) in the back garden, and this bed will be for ‘hot’ coloured flowers. We can see it from the sitting room window, so it will be better than looking at veg!

Tuesday 27th October – Raining. Again. Still haven’t managed to get the bulbs planted – it’s so wet. They are going to have to go in this week regardless and hope they don’t all rot. Living in a mild part of the country is lovely, but it does mean a lot of rain! Next year we have to be quicker with getting the bulbs in. It always seems like there is plenty of time and then suddenly it’s November and you’re panicking.

Wednesday 28th October – Early this morning, the garden we can see from the bedroom window is full of the bigger garden birds. Wood pigeon, half a dozen noisy magpies, even a couple of crows delicately picking at the lichen on the cherry tree. As I watch, a green woodpecker flies in and starts searching the amelanchier bark. The leaves are really falling now. The maple and amelanchier are completely bare and the cherry leaves have become faded pinky-brown. The birch trees in surrounding gardens are yellow and losing leaf, but a mature apple tree in the garden opposite is still fully dressed in green and the liquidambar across the road holds on to its maroon covering.

Thursday 29th October – Cold, windy, wet and miserable. A cock blackbird lands on the cotoneaster and starts taking the berries. I count 29 in less that thirty seconds – it must be a crop full. Then off he flies, but five minutes later he is back for a second helping. We wrap up warm and take our lunch to one of the shelters in the cliff top gardens. The sea is topped with white foam and sky and water merge into a grey mist. There’s quite a swell out there. Closer to shore there are about a dozen bodyboarders taking advantage of the bigger waves. Brave.

Friday 30th October – Cold and windy, but – at the moment – dry. Soil very wet though. Next week is supposed to be better for bulb planting, but late for bulb growing. I am vexed about it as you can tell. Looking at the sea, there is a tiny sliver of silver on the horizon. The sun is shining somewhere and that is encouraging. Next week will be November. Over the weekend will be All Soul’s night, Hallowee’en or Samhain. It is the end of harvests, all is gathered and an end of the cycle of birth and regrowth – we enter the ‘dark half’ of the year. It is also a time to honour our ancestors and remember our dead. We are racing inexorably to the end of the calendar year. But don’t be disheartened – once we’re there, and the shortest day is over, the new season of growth and planting won’t be far away. Send for the seed catalogues!

Week 18th October

Monday 19th October – Migraine. Good painkillers see me relatively pain free but completely addled for a couple of hours thereafter. Quiet day.

Tuesday 20th October – Taking advantage of some warm sunshine, it’s a walk and lunch outside. Today we wander up Peak Hill, unusually there is no one around. This is a popular walking (and running) route and it’s good to not have panting runners in close proximity. These cliffs are fragile and there are frequent landslips – often relatively small but still quite a spectacle. Alternating very wet and dry weather make the slips more likely. We turn back at the edge of the woodland; the view across Lyme Bay on the return journey is spectacular.

Wednesday 21st October – Such a clear day today, we can see Portland Bill to the east from the cliff top and Berry Head to the west. Through the binoculars we can easily see the Mussel Farm that is off Sidmouth; we have never seen it before. It’s quite a big expanse of black buoys all sticking out of the water like rows of fenceposts. I shall have to read about it. A quick phone-Google reveals it’s going to be 15sq kilometres at full operation and produce up to 10,000 tonnes of native Blue Mussels per year. That’s a lot of mussels. And a big expanse of obstruction for anyone sailing across this part of Lyme Bay. And monoculture? Not always a good idea. Hmm.

Thursday 22nd October – We moved here in August last year and most of this year has been lost to Covid, so not much exploring beyond the very local area has been done. The beach and the cliff paths have been about it really, apart from a couple of excursions to Dartmoor and into Dorset. Today we have been planning some local circular walks of about 3 or 4 miles so that we can develop some favourites. There is pebble-bed heathland not far away that should be good for walking and for bird and wildlife spotting.

Friday 23rd October – Time to get some help in the garden for the autumn pruning and tidying. The bigger shrubs and trees are too much for us oldies to manage all year round so it’s time for the professionals. There is a cordyline australis tree that is very congested and needs clearing out and we have a lot of hedging which was castellated by the previous owner and actually looks quite nice (sort of retro), but it’s mixed hedging and is a devil to keep straight and even as it all grows at different rates! A huge eleagnus about 12 feet high forms a wind break, but is much too tall now so needs proper shaping and the cherry tree is looking old and sparse of leaf. Hopefully, miracles will be worked.

6 – on – Saturday 17.10.20

Hello everyone. Here’s the quickest six ever – too busy gardening in the sunshine!

First – Seeds and berries. Agapanthus, hypericum (plant of the devil), cotoneaster horizontalis.

Second – Autumn lovelies. Snow white cyclamen, fading hydrangea and aren’t-you-jealous-of-those nerines.

Third – Hardy geraniums being hardy – Roseanne, Orkney Cherry making a takeover bid, and Ann Folkard (I think).

Fourth – and the other sort, having a last gasp.

Fifth – autumn faithfuls and surprises – japanese anemone, bergenia cordifolia a tentative penstemon.

Sixth – wildlife. A frog.

So there they are. Six categories from the garden today. Don’t forget to check out this week’s Core Edge Journal from the menu across the top. Thanks.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

As always – stay safe, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.

Week 11th October

Monday 12th October – Rain. A lot of it.

Tuesday 13th October – More rain. The sun puts in an appearance about 5pm, making the slice of Lyme Bay we can see from the window a brilliant, glittering, silver segment.

Wednesday 14th October – Sunshine and blue sky. Breezy. In the hollow where we begin our walk it is warm and sunny. The trees are an autumn paintbox of browns and russets, golds and yellows, green and lime. The beech trees are shedding their leaves already and the ground is dotted with the spiky shells from sweet chestnuts. Grey squirrels are everywhere. A group of crows twist through the trees, cawing noisily; just ahead of them is the buzzard they are chasing. As we crest the rise out of the hollow it is cold and windy and we soon turn and hurry back down the bank where it’s more sheltered.

Thursday 15th October – The cotoneaster outside the sitting room window is full of tiny, jewel red berries. Blackbirds feast on them in the morning, the wood pigeons balance precariously, gorging themselves, later in the day. I hope that one of these days we might see a fieldfare or a redwing – you never know. There are fields behind us where fieldfares gather in winter, although I haven’t seen any yet this year.

Friday 16th October – Clearing out the big garden bed for re-planting we are joined by a beautiful Common Frog. Shiny-skinned and beady-eyed it seems a little bewildered before hopping off into a more overgrown area. It may have been beginning hibernation, although it’s still a little early. I hope we didn’t disturb it too much.

World Mental Health Day

I’m not doing a 6 – on – Saturday today. But because it’s World Mental Health Day, I have written something about my own experience on my other blog. Take a look if you would like to.



Week 4th October

Monday 5th October – Yesterday the rain fell steadily all day. Today, after more rain this morning, the sky is lighter and the moisture is steaming up from the wood on Trow hill. The garden birds are returning – a pair of blackbirds, blue tits and, I think, the goldcrest dotting here and there in the fir tree. Soon be time to start feeding them. On the seafront, a few people are gathered watching the turnstones dash up and down and a group of housemartins are hawking overhead. How long before the martins leave for warmer climes, I wonder?

Tuesday 6th October – When I was a girl, if a funeral passed in the street people would stop and bow their heads and men would doff their caps to show respect. It doesn’t happen so much now. Today a funeral cortège drove slowly across the esplanade. A traditional funeral, a hearse and a following limousine with mourners, but with the addition of a ‘professional’ mourner walking ahead of the hearse, all the way to the local church. This is a rare sight. The mourner in frock coat and top hat – a young woman – pacing slowly and somewhat incongruously along the sea front. It was unusual enough for people to stop and look, one or two did bow their heads and older men removed their hats. I sometimes miss these old-fashioned demonstrations of respect. There are few now for the living, let alone the dead.

Wednesday 7th October – A lovely walk at Bicton Gardens today. The trees are beginning to turn, the acers flaming into reds and golds, the oaks dusty brown, the birch and beech shades of yellow. The herbaceous borders are bright with asters, day lilies, sedum and salvia. We walk in the American garden at the south of the site, impressed by the Wellingtonia with their scratchy, hairy red bark and straight trunks soaring upwards. There is an ancient and twisted Monterey pine and an old, rotting Dawn Redwood with tiny fairy toadstools growing in its niches.

Thursday 8th October – Breezy and showery. We pack up lunch and take it to Peak Hill. After a walk across the red cliffs we head for the seaward shelter in the Gardens to escape the showers and eat. The sky has moving stacks of white and grey cloud, breaks of blue where the sun silvers through on to the water. The horizon is palest, palest grey except where shower clouds just smudge that line between sea and sky. Just watching the sea and the clouds is such a delight. So peaceful.

Friday 9th October – Showery. Errands today, but still time for a brisk walk along the beach. There is a group of wetsuit-clad, middle aged women wading into the water. They form into a circle and dip their shoulders below the waves, then bob up and down, chatting and laughing, bright orange floats around them. It looks like a great way to meet your friends, chat, and get some exercise – and it doesn’t matter if it rains. There is obviously still some warmth in the water, it’s about 15C in there, which is warmer than the air temperature today.

Week 27th September

Sunday 27th September – No writing for a day or two this week, other things are getting in the way. Perhaps later on if things quieten down.

Tuesday 29th September – Michaelmas Day. The feast day of St Michael the Archangel, he who threw Lucifer down from Heaven to earth for his treachery. St Michael is also patron saint of the sea, maritime lands, ships and boatmen, horses and horsemen. It’s also said that when Lucifer fell to earth he landed in a blackberry bush and cursed the plant and its fruits, spitting on them. That’s why you shouldn’t pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day. Not only does the devil renew his curse annually, it’s bad luck to gather and eat them after this date. So don’t be tempted!

Wednesday 30th September – There are young wood pigeons in the garden this morning. Their plumage looks mostly grey – black tail feathers – they don’t yet have the soft, subtle colours of the adults. They also have a greyish beak and are without the white neck feathers that will be so prominent later on. They don’t seem to know what is eatable and what is not. They are pulling at the branches of the fir tree but I don’t think even a woodpigeon will eat pine needles!

Thursday 1st October – This October has two full moons. Tonight, the Harvest Moon and on the 31st the Hunter’s Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, so sometimes is in September, sometimes in October. It lies low in the sky, and often appears larger than usual. Named because its light helped in gathering the late harvest, its first use was recorded in 1706. Ted Hughes’ poem ‘The Harvest Moon’ gives a sense of almost supernatural effect, using words more associated with sound than sight and light. These few lines resonate, in every sense:

” The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.”

If you like poetry – or would like to like it more – I recommend Hughes’s ‘Season Songs’ from which this excerpt is taken.

Friday 2nd October – Storm Alex is upon us. The trees and shrubs are thrashing and waving, caught in the blustery, squally gusts. Overnight the water butts are full and overflowing – some good news from bad weather. At least this should soften the ground for bulb planting. Between showers the robin sings, marking his territory diligently even though he is nowhere to be seen.