A Gym of My Own

One of the unexpected pleasures of living in Brittany is that every morning - well almost - I can go to my private gym. I walk down the garden and in seconds I am sitting in front of my first piece of exercise equipment and ready to start. This is the story of that gym,…

This is the House that We Built

For years now birds visiting our courtyard in Richmond have taken advantage of feeders, baths and, if the need demands, nesting boxes. Elsewhere, gardeners with more space have built insect hotels, left trees rotting where they fell and piled up logs for needy amphibians.Of the various schemes, one of the most intriguing is the use…

Lessons from a Wizened Potato

At the start of our summer in France I was rightly taken to task. Jeni, our house guest, chided me for failing to take care of a wrinkled potato. Against all odds, the potato, which was no bigger than a walnut, had survived the winter in a cupboard and later, in a search for daylight, had produced a spindly…

Through the Brain Barrier

            During a week in June, my approach to birds changed radically. For years my interest in birdlife had been limited to garden visitors such as robins, wrens, chaffinches and blue tits. Rarely had I bothered about those further afield. Indeed, during walks in the countryside it is ‘disinterest’ that…

The Curious Contents of the Garden Shed

We spent the last two nights of our holiday on a Brittany island in a ‘converted farmhouse’ with its ‘landscaped garden’.  We arrived at the Bed and Brefast to find the front drive freshly raked, the beds on either side weed-free, and the plants within perfectly aligned. Janine welcomed us; she was relaxed, tanned, slim and smartly dressed. In…

Blackbirds with Influence

This is the story of four blackbirds who share our lives in Richmond. One was the source of conflict; two helped resolve the difference; the fourth was a present given to mark the resolution. The conflict, which although important to me may well appear to others as trivial, centred around a full-sized painting of a…

An Orchid with Coquettish Tendencies

Bee orchids have small flowers, short stems and, in meadowland, are easily missed. They are also rare, protected and are seen as one of nature's great mimics with flowers that have an uncanny likeness their insect namesake. If put together as a rectangle, our garden in France, with its orchard, spinney, fruit and vegetable patches,…

Thinking inside the box

Forget the shenanigans that go on amongst gardeners at ground level [Divided we stand, Greyhares, 29 August 2016], there is an altogether different world a little higher up amongst the avian community. Life for the birds appears altogether easier, but they too have their problems, and in this instance I am talking about residency. With trees…