• Oak power

    Back in 2010 my partner Jan & her colleague Annabelle - art360Hereford - devised an arts project for the city, inviting everyone to put something of interest, something special, considered, significant in some personal way to them into an empty milk bottle - needless to say the project was called "Bottling Hereford". An exhibition followed along with numerous photo shoots of almost 2,000 milk bottles set up around the city. have a look on the archives of www.art360hereford.com to see what it was all about.

    After the event finished all the milk bottles were put into storage pending a decision on what to do next. They rested in the dark for four years before J & A decided something had to be done with them. A rigorous editing process had to be employed (a short selection - the best of bottles - due to be exhibited again in 2015). One of the bottles that was almost rejected contained a few acorns that appeared to have once tried to germinate and then, consigned to a very dark place, had stopped and died back. On a whim Jan brought them home, dropped a tiny bit of water inside, and within three or four days a bottle forest of oaks began to grow.

    We have both been amazed at the drive to thrive locked inside these little acorns.

    Big question now - what to do next? These oaks are putting out leaves in September that they should have had in April/May. More's the point they can't stay in their own little greenhouse for much longer. Will probably extricate them, pot on & leave in a sheltered spot or perhaps our polytunnel over winter & see what happens next year. Might be interesting to leave them in a group in the pot & see if we can get a little bonsai group going.

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  • Old stamping ground, but always something new to find

    Fairly heavy day so needed to refresh the tree receptors. Haven't been to one of my old favourites - Brockhampton Woods for a few weeks now.

    National Trust have been doing a lot of work clearing rhododendrons from around the lake, letting in the light, opening up the views and hopefully allowing some other trees and plants to emerge by the waterside.

    Found these two handsome old small-leaved limes along the bottom path through the parkland, adjacent to the woods. These are seriously old trees and were almost certainly part of the ancient woodland before some of it was cleared for parkland. There are several other limes down in the bottom of the wood near the stream. Seems quite strange to see these trees out in the open - not their usual haunt. Native limes are secretive, shy trees, almost always tucked away in the depths of woodland, but it's human activity - pollarding and, more often, coppicing that has contained them in these bosky abodes.

    Revisited my old chum 'Ash Man' - what a weird excrescence this ash has produced. Thank goodness the foresters haven't chosen to cull him.

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  • Found for a pound - dive in!

    Latest in the ongoing 'found for a pound' series comes this splendid glass jug. Sometimes you just spot a piece that screams perfection of form for it's medium and purpose. Whoever came up with the simple, yet somehow glaringly obvious, motif of ripples for this jug deserves the accolades accorded to great designers. Look at it, feel it, catch the light, pour the water, its very form shouts cool, cooooooool refreshment. Date? Difficult to say, but it is very much a hand blown piece with its ground pontil to the base, swirls in the body and a delightfully uneven rim and lip. Could be early 20th century. Could be last year. Does it matter? Great design is timeless.

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  • Fruits of our labours

    Well, not really, the fruit comes whether you labour or not. Fruit trees have a capricious nature. Some years they bear so heavily that branches break with the weight of fruit, while other years they put up the shutters, particularly so with the older trees - it's almost as if they simply don't have the energy to do it every year. These on/off cycles don't seem to have any rhythm to them either - you can't predict what will happen, whether the winter is harsh or mild, whether we have a wet spring or periods of drought, the trees will please themselves.

    This year some of our younger trees of old variety dessert fruit are fruiting fit-to-bust, but the old cider apple trees are hit'n'miss. The Bulmer's Norman, as they do more often than not are almost all heaving with fruit, except two big trees that I can usually rely on are totally bereft. The Yarlington Mill are poor. Some of the Bramleys are amazing and this young Herefordshire Beefing that we put in about twelve years ago is certainly making the effort.

    Almost all the plums have been good this year and the damsons are hanging like bunches of grapes. Our single majestic blackthorn hasn't let us down with sloes either. While I was up the tree yesterday I noticed how beautiful the array of autumn colours are - red, blue, green and yellow - amazing. 6 lbs of tiny, viciously bitter fruit off to Sarah C. for her sloe gin.

    At the back of the house yesterday the swallows were beginning to gather for their impending southward migration - twittering, chattering feeding up and preening. I wonder how many of these little guys will make it there & back for next spring.

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  • LandScape Magazine article

    Back in June LandScape Magazine asked me to write an article about oak trees after seeing a copy of my book. They also used several of my pictures, although there were some bought in from other sources which, for copyright reasons, I've left out here. Article looks good & magazine is a fascinating mix of country matters - a slightly more landscapy sort of version of Country Living really, but well put together. They obviously liked this piece so I've been commissioned to write another feature for the next issue - Trees in winter.

    Pick up a copy & have a looksee.

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