The Oak Tree Experiment – Update

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Acorns

Two years ago I wrote about collecting acorns on my walk to work and then returning home and planting them in the hope they would grow into oak trees. You can read that post here.

Since writing that first post, I had given up hope and forgotten about the little acorns I had planted. Notice my surprise whilst releasing the second batch of painted lady butterflies from Insect Lore, I glanced into a pot and noticed what looked to me like oak leaves. I asked David for confirmation and he agreed.

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Baby Oak Tree

I was stunned and overjoyed. We have our very own little oak tree! It may have taken two years but we have success!

Have you successfully grew a tree from its seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

After a few months of waiting, I’ve finally got my hands on a book I have been looking forward to reading.

‘ARE YOU READY, MAX? If anyone’s going to help me do this, it’s you.’

Would you want to read on?

Max

Max the Wonder Dog

The line is from the Sunday Times bestseller Max, the Miracle Dog by Kerry Irving. If you are a follower of Max in the Lake District on Facebook you will know all about this joyous springer spaniel and now his two other brothers Paddy and Harry. I’ve not started reading the book yet, but I have high hopes!

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

 

A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Thirty-one

toast.jpgDay Thirty-one: Today’s photo prompt and the last of the month is a toast!

Where has December gone? This month has simply flown by! In the spirit of the season I make a toast to all my lovely readers.

I wish you a joyous and love filled 2019.

All the best and thanks for your support!

Christine x

 

A Year in Photos – 2018

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. As December comes to a close and 2019 draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2018. And what a year 2018 has been! David and I have been on a wonderful adventure together. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight what a fantastic year 2018 has been!

 January:

The year began with a seven mile walk at Gisburn Forest, in the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It certainly blew the cobwebs away and set the tone for the rest of the year ahead.

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Forest Walk

February:

Desperate to get out and catch as much winter sun as we could, David and I embarked on a 10 mile circular walk of my much loved Derwentwater in the Lake District.

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Derwentwater

March:

The highly anticipated exhibition of China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened at Liverpool’s World Museum. I visited in March with David and then again in September with mum.

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Terracotta Warriors

April:

I was over the moon when I completed my first 500 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I only had another 500 to complete, which I accomplished in July!

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Reaching 500 miles

May:

With the weather hotting up David and I took yet another trip to The Lake District. This time we walked towards Bleaberry Tarn for a blissfully warm wild swim.

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Bleaberry Tarn

June:

June for me is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This year was extra special as I managed to blog every day. We spent a wonderful month visiting many new nature reserves and even managed to squeeze in a short break to The Lake District, where we waked alpacas along Derwentwater.

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At Derwentwater

July:

The highlight of July was having my friend from California, USA come to stay with us for a few days. As requested, we visited the Lake District for what turned out to be a rather soggy hike around Rannerdale Knotts.

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Selfie Time!

August:

We took a trip down to see Dippy the Diplodocus at Birmingham Museums. This free  exhibition was a little bit different from our other days out this year.

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Dippy at Birmingham

September:

A wild swim dream came true this month when David and I took a short break to the Highlands of Scotland. I managed to bag three swims! It has whetted my appetite to visit again in future.

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Getting changed, Loch Etive

October:

As a birthday treat I, along with David and my mum took a visit to Liverpool’s newly opened Cat Cafe. We seemed to be a magnet for naughty, hungry kitties.

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Christine and Rose

November:

The Lake District has played a heavy part in 2018. Imagine my happiness when we discovered that Riley could manage the two hours travel up to Cumbria. (He suffers badly with car sickness). Our first visit with Riley tagging along was to the serene Rydal Water and Grasmere.

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David and Riley at Rydal Water

December:

December is all about the excitement of Christmas. My favourite picture from December is undoubtedly Riley with Santa Paws.

riley and santa paws

Let’s hope 2019 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

Sunday Sevens #45

Phew! These weeks come around quick! It’s time for another Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

Upcoming Event:

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Dippy on Tour – Birmingham 2018

On Tuesday I booked tickets to see Dippy the Diplodocus on tour at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. The ticketed event is free but booking is essential. Dippy was the centrepiece to the entrance hall of London’s Natural History Museum since the 1970’s. Recently the skeleton has been replaced by the inspirational skeleton of Blue Whale, Hope. David and I are booked to visit Dippy this August. I particularly liked the comment on Birmingham Museum’s page regarding this event: Not all dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. One group survived and evolved into the birds we know today. It made me happy that David and I have 10 healthy dinosaurs in our aviary! 🙂

Snow:

On Thursday we awoke to a pleasant surprise here in Liverpool. It had snowed during the night and continued throughout the morning, though the snow was gone by lunch-time. 😦 While it snowed I took a video of the visiting birds to our yarden. Recently, we have not seen as many small birds as usual. I hope the predation of cats is not deterring them. 😦

#walk1000miles:

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Christine and Riley at the park

This week I’ve managed to walk 36 miles. Bringing my annual total to 362 miles. On Friday David and I took Riley on a good 45 minute walk around the local park. Even the rain didn’t deter the fun we had!

Beauty: 

rose

This weekend, while David and I were shopping for Mother’s Day gifts, I spied rainbow roses on sale at a market stall. I had seen bouquets of these rainbow roses online but never in the shops. David kindly purchased one for me. I just can’t stop looking at it. It’s so pretty!

Terracotta Warriors – at World Museum Liverpool:

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Terracotta Warriors – Liverpool

This Saturday, we had tickets to see the terracotta warriors event at Liverpool’s World Museum. I was very excited to see this much anticipated event. However on the day we managed to sleep in! (Ooh!), though not too much! We were lucky to have plenty of time to get to the museum! Our visit was for the 10am showing and thankfully all went smoothly and we got to the event in time.

We watched a short video introducing the history and culture of China before the doors opened and we were allowed to see the exhibition. I have to praise the organisation as though we did not dawdle, we were not rushed through the displays of artifacts dating back some 2000 years. There was a lot of information to take in. I can see myself visiting again. Have you visited the event? Even visited the actual site in the Shaanxi province? Do share your experiences.

Mother’s Day:

In celebration of Mothering Sunday, David and I both visited our mums. However we also took in a visit to the family dogs as well. We walked Riley 1.5 miles on Crosby Beach and then visited Bennie, David’s doggie nephew. I had recently purchased two Kong Squeezz Zoo toys for Riley and Bennie, as the last toy we gave Bennie, he chewed to pieces! I hope this toy fares a bit better!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Candlemas

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Candlemas

This Friday was Candlemas – Festival of light. Candlemas has many connotations. For the Christian’s, it represents Mary’s presentation of the young Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. To others it’s Imbolc, a Gaelic festival signalling the beginning of spring, and since 1886 the day has also been known as Groundhog Day. Whatever your beliefs, the season of spring does seem to be close at hand.

For the past few weeks I have been looking for signs of spring. Thanks to the Woodland Trust‘s Nature Detectives, I have spotted my first blooming willow catkins and snowdrops.

However there seems to be many superstitions regarding this time of year between the Shortest Day and the March equinox. Of the Christian saying:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

This belief means that if the day of Candlemas is bright and sunny, then superstition would determine that winter hasn’t ended for the season. This is also the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. If, (groundhog) Phil see’s his shadow (on a sunny day) then the poor rodent, will predict another six weeks of winter.

This year, both Candlemas was a sunny, fair day here in the NW of England and Punxsutawney Phil (in Philadelphia, U.S.A) did indeed see his shadow. Meaning there could be another six weeks of winter.

I on the other hand don’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t ignore nature. There is so much blossoming around me. From Hellebores and irises, to daffodils (in parks) and crocuses in my yarden. Even in the grasp of winter there is life, all around.

This weekend I have also spotted the visiting chiffchaff to my yarden. He/she is always spotted around this time, flitting about the yarden. This year I was amazed at how brash the chiffchaff was, fluttering at the dinning room window and landing in the window boxes. I’ve managed to get some new footage of this seasonal visitor. We tend to only see the chiffchaff around wintertime.

So whether you think spring is around the corner or six weeks away. Spring will be here in no time, and then fast on its heels will be summer. The seasons of the years go so fast. We need to savour the passing of time.

While I was watching the wildlife outside my window. I enjoyed a cup of tea from my recently bought mug. It is of the same design as my Enchanted Forest plates. I love it!

What signs of spring have you seen? Let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #37

It’s been such a long time since I have written a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins. So, I think a catch up is much needed.

New Friends: 

Last Saturday David and I visited our favourite pet shop, Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in Haydock. I had decided that if there were any owl finches then I would buy one. On the day there were two. I couldn’t leave one on its own, so both came home with me and I was £80 the poorer. They settled into their new home so quickly! They look so cute snuggled up with our other owls. Here they all are, Hector, Paris, Tux and Cox.

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Owl Finches

Storm Ophelia and a Saharan sun:

Monday brought ex-hurricane Ophelia to the UK. The morning was swathed in ochre coloured clouds. The air had an unearthliness to it. While standing for a bus I noticed the shrouded sun burned a blood red. In times past it would have been seen as an omen. I later read that it was to due to sand particles blown from the Sahara.

#walk1000miles:

I am happy to report that I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on Sunday the 8th of October. It felt a bit of an anticlimax at first, as I had hoped to complete on my next break to the Lake District. In reality it was while I wandered around a Liverpool shopping park. However the achievement soon dawned on me. I was chuffed with myself, I’d walked 1000 miles in 10 months! I can’t wait to receive my completer’s medal! I am continuing to count my miles to see what tally I reach come 31st December 2017!

Have you participated in the challenge? If so, what has been your memorable moments of the year?

Book I am reading:

I’ve just completed Barry Hines’s painfully poignant A Kestrel for a KnaveI am of the age when this book/film was on the GCSE curriculum. I recall the film being grey and bleak. The book of a similar vein, has some wonderful descriptions of nature. There was one scene in the book that I felt I had read before, in Chris Packham’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.  The scene where Billy uses the lure with Kes while his teacher watches on awestruck, I felt echoed Packham’s own experience. Hine’s depicts a hand to mouth existence for Billy in a brutal northern industrial town and the narrative depicting Kes tucking into her meals is a reflection of that wildness. Even though I appreciated the reality of the novel, at the end I was left feeling despondent that life for Billy, like many who lived then, as of today, will always be cruel.

Have you read this book? Seen the film? What were your impressions?

Rehabilitation: 

For the past 3-4 weeks we have had a guest staying, in the form of a pigeon. We affectionately named her Shaky due to a constant tremor. At first we thought Shaky had canker but after medication she grew confused. With some vitamins and garlic water Shaky grew in strength and this weekend we decided to try and release her. However, we could have chosen a better weekend, what with Storm Brian on the horizon, but the winds helped raise Shaky on the wing and she flew from our garden. Hopefully we have given her a helping hand and she can join her friends and live her remaining years as a pigeon.

Wild About Gardens Week: 

This Monday is the beginning of an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts and RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), Wild About Gardens. The week long initiative is focusing on bees and what we can do to attract them to our gardens. There is a downloadable pack that gives useful information. You can help by building homes to growing nectar rich flowers.

The wildflower seeds I sowed for 30 Days Wild in June have been flowering all summer and well into autumn! I’ll end this post with a collage of some wildflowers. If you can recognise any of them, then I would be most appreciative if you could let me know which ones in the comments below, some I could not identify.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

 

Sunday Sevens #33

Today’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Theads and Bobbins), will be a mishmash of pictures and info. I hope you don’t mind?

cartoonWork: This week has been heavy on the workload. With only working 18 hours a week, a full days work is squashed into just 3-4 hours daily. Feeling slightly under the weather and tired has made for a hard week to get through. However spirits were high at the centre I work at, as they celebrated 40 years since their opening. As part of their celebrations a local artist George Brooks was commissioned to draw caricatures of staff and people who access the day centre. Here’s my mug shot!

#walk1000miles: While in previous weeks I have been breaking my own record mileage. This week I have found less time, nor the inclination to do much than the bare minimum. My mileage for this week has been 26 miles bringing my annual total to 683 miles. Not bad but I hope to do better this following week.

New Life: For the past three weeks our blue-faced parrot finches have been laying and sitting on eggs. At first there were eight eggs laid. Then as the weeks progressed they threw a few eggs out of the nest. On Thursday David was replenishing their food and water when he stooped to have a look into the nest. ‘There’s a baby!’ he whispered.

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Baby Blue-faced Parrot Finch

‘What?’ I asked disbelieving. David nodded for me to have a look and I gazed at a tiny, naked creature writhing about the eggs. Even though the baby was blind its bulbous black eyes seemed to protrude from its head. I still can’t quite believe that our finches have had a baby. I wonder what the future will hold for the little nestling and whether there will be any siblings?

An update: Sadly our little nestling only survived two days before we found it dead. RIP little one. 😥

Metamorphosis: What with hatching eggs, fledged goldfinches, pigeons and starlings visiting the feeders, it has all been about the young ones this week! Summer is amazing for seeing new life! I recently noticed a chrysalis attached to a jasmine leaf. We could see the colour of the butterfly through the transparent casing. About two weeks ago on the very same plant I had taken a picture of a green caterpillar. The chrysalis would be the next stage of the metamorphosis!

On Friday during our daily perusal of the yarden David noticed that the chrysalis was empty and the poor, newly emerged butterfly, a large white was sitting on the floor. We picked it up and placed it on a buddleia.

We noticed it had a crumpled wing and I later read that if a newly emerged butterfly ended up on the floor, it could reduce its chance of having pristine wings. It takes a day for the wings to harden and take shape. I hope that our new friend hasn’t damaged its chances of survival. I also noticed that it had just one antenna. I read that it could have been due to a deformity in the chrysalis. The antenna helps determine smell and balance. We left the new butterfly clinging to the biddleia. Hopefully it will be able to warm its wings, the crumple unfold and be able to feed and go on its merry way. Only time will tell.

Another update: This one a little happier, (though only a little). The large white butterfly is still with us. It moved from the buddleia to the floor again, though I did see a white butterfly flutter about the rockery plants earlier in the day. Whether that was our little friend I don’t know. David took the butterfly indoors and fed it sugar/water solution. David noticed that one antennae is under developed and that the butterfly does not have control of one of its front legs. The prognosis for survival is poor, but we shall keep an eye on the butterfly and keep feeding sugar/water. That is all we can do sadly.

I was reading up on metamorphosis and what happens inside a chrysalis. Enzymes are released dissolving tissue but keeping essential organs before remodeling begins. National Geographic have an interesting report on 3D scanning of the process. You can read it here.

Book I am reading: I’ve finally picked up Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Goldfinch. I’m only a few pages into the narrative but so far I am enjoying Tartt’s writing style. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Yarden:  To cheer myself up I decided to visit a local garden centre and purchase some perennials for the yarden. There wasn’t much of a selection but I came away with an achillea (yarrow) and chrysanthemum, both had the RHS Perfect for Pollinators sign.

Looking forward: I have a few days away booked to Keswick this coming week. I am so ready for a little break away. Need to recharge my batteries or I feel I will crumble. Look out for blog posts on how the planned swim/walks pan out!

That was my (rather upsetting) week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x