Pensthorpe – July 2018

A few photos from a recent trip to Pensthorpe in Norfolk. It was a beautiful day though windy with the storms that finally broke the heatwave. So many flowers in bloom in the Millennium Garden.

 

 

 

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Lush shampoo bars – first impressions

Like practically everyone, I’ve been trying to reduce my plastic usage. Although I’ve always recycled since I was responsible for my own waste disposal, there’s a lot of stuff I never considered, and whilst being so concerned with finding vegan, cruelty-free shampoo brands I completely disregarded the fact that they come in plastic packaging.

Shampoo bars seem like the perfect solution but I’ve been reluctant to invest because it seems messy and ineffective. But I’m giving it a go now! I’ve bought a shampoo and conditioning bar from Lush to try over the next few months to see how I get on. I also bought one of little silver tins to keep it in to manage that worrisome mess.

Godiva shampoo & conditioning bar

A visit to Lush is a very sensory experience – there are so many interesting smells and pretty sights. I always want to try everything or at least sniff it all. I went into the shop specifically for a shampoo bar so I tried not to tempt myself with anything else. There is an impressive selection of shampoo bars, which are all around £6-8; this does sound pricey but when you consider it’s going to last you months and months it’s a good investment.

I went for the Godiva because it’s smells great and conditions as well, which saves me buying an extra bar. Not only is everything in Lush cruelty free (and cute and amazing!), many of their products are vegan, and the Godiva bar is completely vegan. It has a jasmine scent and contains a variety of oils and butters to give a soft shine to the hair.

It lathers up really well and it’s actually really easy and convenient to use. It’s not messy like I expected and I was impressed with the amount of lather you get out of these shampoo bars, and how long they last – 80-100 washes, so I’m told. I’m not totally convinced it’s going to be provide sufficient conditioning to my hair though so I’ll probably use a leave-in conditioning spray or a bit of coconut oil as well (which I already do.)

This shampoo bar is going to be really handy for travelling and for taking to the swimming pool as it’s so small and fits snugly into its little tin.

I also bought a milk bottle shaped shower gel but more on that later!

How to keep wildlife safe in the heatwave

I am a very heat intolerant person. I’ll happily moan about the hot summer weather and I don’t care who it annoys because you know what? Hot weather makes me feel ill. It makes me dizzy, it gives me palpitations, it exacerbates all the dangerous cardiac symptoms of my chronic illness and anyone who insists that I should be obliged to enjoy hot weather can do one.

This year, the UK has been “enjoying” (read: suffering) from extreme Mediterranean temperatures. I live in the driest county – East Anglia – and we haven’t had a single, solitary drop of rain for nearly 2 months. It’s been between 20-30 everyday and this week the office has been 32 degrees! I happen to have unwisely chosen this summer to be pregnant, so that’s also making me hot, sweaty and intolerant.


Our garden birds have been bringing this year’s young to our feeders, and that’s at least one thing I’ve been happy to see, but I am worried for them. I can’t put down water because the cat will get them. How are they keeping hydrated? How are farmland birds getting at worms in the parched earth? While the hot weather has been good for some species – reptiles and butterflies  – it has been bad for others, including amphibians and birds. Not to mention the devastating wild fires that have spread across moorland and farmland, which will have had a huge impact on the flora and fauna dependent on them.

So how can we look after wildlife in the heatwave?

  1. Leave out water dishes (make sure they are regularly cleaned and topped up and placed in a shady spot away from the hiding places of predators.)
  2. Leave out another water dish for bird baths – they need to keep their feathers clean and it helps to refresh them.
  3. Watch out for sleeping hedgehogs when you mow the lawn (there’s a brilliant poem by Philip Larkin on this matter; you can read it here.)
  4. Make a pond from a washing up bowl to give a cool, watery habitat for frogs and toads. The RSPB has some great advice on how to do this – you can read my experience of creating a garden pond in this blogpost.
  5. Keep your plants watered – wild plants can die in this heat, making our garden flowers even more attractive to pollinators.
  6. Don’t trim your hedges (you shouldn’t this time of year anyway!) as they can provide vital shade. In particular, let the ivy grow.
  7. Create nature highways between your garden and others. This is good advice for all year round but it really comes in handy in a heatwave to make it easier for hedgehogs and other animals to move between habitats in the hunt for food.
  8. Know which local animal charity numbers to ring if you see an animal in distress – the RSPCA website is a good place to start.
  9. Don’t forget pets! Take dogs for walks in the mornings or evenings and not in the midday sun. If it’s very hot, avoid hot surfaces like pavements as these can burn the dog’s paws. Cats will take care of themselves but make sure they have water, food and shade and keep the fleas at bay.

I hope this advice proves helpful! How are you keeping cool?

 

 

Bearded Tits

Bearded tits have always been a difficult bird for me to photograph – they’re just so quick and I rarely get to see them. There is an aviary at Pensthorpe in Norfolk that houses some bearded tits, which are bred for conservation programmes, and because the reeds are a limited territory within the aviary it’s actually possible to get some photos.

So here are some I took recently.

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Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden – June 2018

On a hot day in June we took a drive out to Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden, a faerie-like dreamland of quiet streams and secret rhododendron paths.

The garden took 15 years to create when the late Lord and his team of gardeners began to restore the house and land after the war. The spectacle is quiet strange; almost current-less waterways cross the garden, and rooms of hydrangeas and camellia merge. There were plenty of ducks and their young, dragonflies and damselflies, and schools of thousands of sticklebacks.

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I’d love to know what kind of funghi are these?

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The foxgloves were out in force.

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An Egyptian goose spotted.

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I don’t feel so bad about the green skud on the surface of my pond – the water here is covered in it, you feel like it’s grass.

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The fields of wheat.

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We were really impressed to find that in the tearoom not only was there vegan cake in the form of a delicious chocolate and marmalade slice, but also there was a sandwich option. It doesn’t take much to add an easy hummus sarnie to your menu but it makes such a difference!

National Insect Week

It’s not the most glamorous of ‘national week of…’ events but it is globally important to the conservation of insect species, which are rapidly declining. The celebration was started to “encourage people of all ages to learn about insects”, which is a particularly prescient exercise given the recent evidence from France and Germany that shows a 75% decline in insect species across the countryside within the last 25 years.

The National Insect Week website lists all the different types of insects and has a wealth of learning resources. Insects include:

  • beetles
  • butterflies and moths
  • bees and wasps
  • ants
  • crickets and grasshoppers
  • dragonflies and damselflies
  • earwigs
  • lacewings
  • mayflies
  • stoneflies
  • silverfish and firebrats
  • true bugs
  • true flies

A casual flick through the website and I have learnt that while there are over 50 or 60 species of butterflies in the UK, there are a staggering 2000 species of moth! I have also discovered what a firebrat is.

You may not be especially interested in insects – you may even avoid them at all costs – but they are an essential component of any ecosystem because so many animals depend on them for a food source. They are also pollinators so they help plants and flowers to reproduce, which contributes to a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Some insects even break down decaying organisms, returning those nutrients to the environment.

The RSPB suggests excellent ways to encourage insect species in our gardens:

  • build a bug home
  • plant for butterflies
  • install a bee hotel
  • pile up dead wood
  • support campaigns by Buglife

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Bluebells at Blickling in May

Every May comes the annual trip to the woods at the Blickling estate in Norfolk to see the bluebells, and it never disappoints. Vast carpets of delicate purple flowers lay across the woodland floor and hundreds of people turn up each year to see this spectacle.

Here are a few photos of my trip this year.