Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Upton House gardens

Sunday afternoon stroll in the sun round Upton House gardens. More Michaelmas daisies – and this time I didn’t resist buying the bright magenta one, “Andenken an Alma Potschke”

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A sea of Asters

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We visited Old Court Nurseries and The Picton Garden today, in Colwall, Herefordshire, where they have the national collection of Michaelmas Daisies.  Michaelmas is the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, on 29th September, which is close to the autumn equinox (today) and so associated with the beginning of autumn.

It was sunny and warm, so the butterflies were out too – Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell, and bees were buzzing busily.

What an amazing display of colour.  Most of the plants were Michaelmas daisies, but there were a few others mixed in too – some Golden Rod, Heleniums and Rudbeckias – plenty of saturated colours.  I couldn’t help but be drawn to the vivid magenta, just like the ones I had in my hair when we were married, over 30 years ago.  It was a low-key wedding even for those days, photos taken by friends, catering by Mum (I had no idea what an undertaking I’d asked for there – thanks, Mum!) and flowers from the garden – such happy memories.  But my goodness, we look so young!

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All rather glorious.  As if that wasn’t enough for one day, on the way home we passed a flower lorry, delivering to the village garden shop – another feast for the eyes. Flowers in transit. (I have to confess though, that I get almost as excited by shelves of stationary – Rymans and Staples, mmmm! – but flowers, sun and bees do have the edge.)

Flower van delivering to the garden shop

Flower van delivering to the garden shop


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Flustered by fluttering beauties

A few of the butterflies I saw on holiday in Wales, on the Ceredigion coast, and in gardens just inland in August.  Click on any picture for a slide-show.

The Grayling was a surprise – I thought I’d taken a picture of a Painted Lady until I checked it in the book.   I did see Painted Ladies too, but not close up.  I got quite excited about the Wall butterflies, as we don’t get them at home, and I can’t remember when I last saw one.

This was the best hunting though – I had to stalk it for ages, and I wasn’t sure what it was.  Then it came and sat on my leg!  I was so flustered that all I managed were several totally out of focus shots – but then it was kind enough to sit and pose for me – a Silver-Washed Fritillary, another new one for me.

Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly at Castell Henllys

Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly at Castell Henllys


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I can still run – and the Big Butterfly Count

I have just been looking at my Garmin (running watch) stats. In May I ran for 30 minutes or more on six occasions, during the 5×50 challenge. In June, just three times. July was even worse, as I only did one longer run, though it was for 45 minutes.

And so far in August, I hadn’t run at all. So off I went this evening, once it had cooled down, and ran for 30 minutes. The first 5-10 were tough as ever, but I knew they would be, so that was ok. Then I kept using the ‘just to the next…’ trick to keep me going. I was going to stop at 20 minutes, but then decided that would be a bit lame, as I could run for 30 all the way back in February when I graduated from the NHS couch to 5k programme.

I even managed to speed up a bit at various points, and although I’m still slow, 13:51 min/mile, or just over 4 mph, considering I’m out of practice, I was quite pleased.

But I really mustn’t let it be two weeks before I go out again. 🙂

Other than running, today I’ve watched butterflies, for the Big Butterfly Count and was really pleased to see my new buddleia being well-used by a Peacock, some Large Whites, Small Whites, and Green-veined Whites. There were also several Gatekeepers on the marjoram and on the apple cordons, and one gorgeous Common Blue male on the lavender.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly feeding on buddleia

Common Blue male

Common Blue male on lavender

Sadly, I also had to bury a young hedgehog. 😦 We found it munching a slug on the day we got back from our holidays, and now, just two days later I found it dead and covered with flies. It’s about ten years since we’ve seen a hedgehog in the garden, so it’s very disappointing. Perhaps the fact that it was out in daylight when we saw it first was an indication that it wasn’t well. I’ll still send in a record that we saw it though, through irecord, as the county biological records office welcomes all hedgehog sightings, alive or dead – and other wildlife too.

On a more cheerful note, we watched a female Field Grasshopper laying eggs in the dry earth in the meadow part of our garden. She took ages, maybe twenty minutes or more, and then when she’d finished, she used her hind leg to scrape loose earth over the hole, very daintily!  She appears to be a unicorn grasshopper – one antenna is missing.

Field Grasshopper laying eggs

Female Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus, laying eggs


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Getting up close to butterflies

Weekly photo challenge is ‘Masterpiece’ – the prompt shows part of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, and I agree that it is an absolutely amazing building. So many mind-blowingly different ideas all in one place – one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever visited, and Barcelona doesn’t just have one of his buildings, they’re everywhere. Definitely a place worth travelling to.

The masterpieces I’ve seen today though are much smaller. Wildlife of course. I spotted a blue-tailed damselfly this morning by the new pond, but it didn’t stay for a photo. The garden was full of butterflies and bees again too. The most popular flowers are lavender, valerian, marjoram, hollyhocks, hebes and sea lavender. Butterflies up close are just stunning.

Small White on lavender

Small White feeding on lavender – look at those eyes – and what an amazing tongue!

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell on Sea Lavender (Limonium)


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Ra ra ra! 45 minute run! Plus… creatures in the garden

I haven’t run much in the last month – just two one-milers since I did the Race for Life 5k at the end of June.  The heat wave has put me off, but it seemed perhaps a bit cooler this evening, and I was in the right mood, so I went out to see if I could still keep going for half an hour.

First ten minutes were tough as ever.  Then it was an uphill bit (not steep, but not flat either).  Twenty minutes in and I was thinking about stopping.  Told myself I could keep going a bit more even though I’d got to a bit with no shade – it was getting on for 8pm, but still about 25 C, which is pretty warm as far as I’m concerned.  I overtook a dog walker (always an achievement for me – they are often faster than I am).  Then it was a downhill slope, so persuaded myself to keep going until I got back to my starting point, which was just under 3 miles.

It took me about 45 minutes, which is pretty slow, but I was happy with it as I was really out of practice and it was hot.  My fingers felt like sausages once I was walking – had to hold them up in the air or they throbbed (they’d been fine while I was running, as they were above heart-level I suppose).

Legs feel fine too.  🙂

No pictures from the run, but some from the garden today.  Lots of butterflies today – Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Brimstone.  The lavender hedge is full of bees too – Carder bees, Tree bees, Honey bees, Buff-tailed bumble bees (I think – might have been some cuckoo bees too), Early bumble bees and I also saw a few Red-tailed bumble bees, though maybe not on the lavender.

I also noticed a bee flying with a rolled-up bit of leaf between its legs.  I’ve seen evidence of leaf-cutter bees before, where they’ve cut a semi-circle from the edge of a rose leaf, but don’t remember seeing one actually flying with the leaf before.  I watched it go into a hole in the bottom of a plant pot several times.  Earlier on I’d seen a centipede go in the same hole, so it’s an exciting world inside that pot!

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly – squint your eyes and you can see how this could frighten off an attacking bird

Rosemary Beetle

Rosemary Beetle – Chrysolina americana. On lavender, rather than rosemary though. They will also eat thyme and sage. Only found in the UK in recent years. A very pretty pest. I’ve only found the one so far, but will be looking out for them.

Brimstone

Brimstone butterfly (male) on lavender

Leaf-cutter bee

Leaf-cutter bee in flight with a piece of leaf – heading for a hole in a plant pot


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Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly

Photo prompt – ‘Fresh’

Freshly-opened lavender flowers in the hot sun (29 C in the shade) were attracting butterflies today. I cut two bunches of lavender to hang up in the kitchen. They are slightly different shades of purple.

Green-veined White on lavender

Green-veined White on lavender

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown

Lavender

Lavender bunches – the dark one is Munstead Dwarf (I think) and the paler one is a self-seeded one