The Wildlife Trusts and Fancott Meadows

Last Saturday we made our third visit to Fancott Meadows, a Coronation Meadow which is managed by the BCN Wildlife Trust. This time we went along with our local Wildlife Trust group led by Graham Bellamy. The forecast was rain and I had packed my camera into a waterproof bag, as we arrived in the carpark I realised I had left the bag and camera on the kitchen counter top at home.

Fancott Meadow

Fancott Meadows

That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the photos I took on my phone were so appalling it meant we had to visit again late Tuesday afternoon, the sun shone and some of the Butterflies we had hoped to see on the grey overcast Saturday morning were now enjoying the sunshine and flitting through the meadows.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Fancott was bought by the Trust in 2007 from a local retiring farmer, horses had been grazing these fields, now Red Poll cattle and Hebridean Sheep are brought on at specific times to graze the meadows, we are told this is a more sympathetic way to manage the meadows both for plants and the wildlife. The old method of cutting the meadows would have removed the invertebrates habitat in one fell swoop.

Cuckoo Spit on Black Knapweed

Cuckoo Spit on Black Knapweed

But for our cool summer, the Black Knapweed would usually be in flower by now. Cuckoo spit is the secretion of Froghopper nymphs, nothing to do with the bird. The nymphs live inside the “spit” until ready to fledge as the Froghopper insect.

Yorkshire Fog

Holas lanatus Yorkshire Fog – the soft and very tactile flowers open and dance in the breeze

There were swathes of Yellow Rattle – Rhinanthus minor which produce tiny seeds that rattle around in the papery brown calyx, hence the common name. Its a hemiparasite, its roots grow into the roots of its neighbours, usually grasses taking their nutrients.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle

The meadows are divided into two, with wooden gates and traditional hedging forming the boundaries. The second is a flood plain meadow and supports Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, as its edging towards invasive the Trust are monitoring its spread, if allowed to take over, other plants of interest would be crowded out. In flower and en-masse its quite a sight, right now its a little drab. The plant was used as a flavouring in Mead, hence its common name.



There were Orchids, Heath, Common and a Frog Orchid, not a looker but a rarity.

Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride

Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride

Our native Marsh Thistle distinguished by their cluster heads were the tallest plants towering above the other meadow plants and can reach up to 200cms tall.

Marsh Thistle Cirsuim palustre

Marsh Thistle Cirsuim palustre

Ragged Robin is nectar rich we waited a while for one of the Bees to land, but they seemed to prefer the Marsh Thistle on Tuesday.

Ragged Robin Silene flos-cuculi

Ragged Robin Silene flos-cuculi

As we neared the end of our walk through the meadows we saw a small patch of Corn cleavers they have declined dramatically in the last 60 years, modern agricultural methods have done for it and this little plant is now very rare and classified as critically endangered.

Corn Cleavers Galium tricornutum

Corn Cleavers Galium tricornutum

The Wildlife Trusts are made up of 47 individual Trusts, collectively their mission is dedicated to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places. Lobbying the government to improve weak legislation and encouraging volunteers to be active and engage with our natural world. Our local Flitvale group are a lovely bunch of folk, sharing knowledge and their company, with some wonderful speakers and walk leaders, often for the cost of £1.00.

Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis

Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis

Last year we were to early to see Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis in flower, its a glorious sight. What a tragedy that so many of these wonderful meadows have been lost, once these would have been a common sight and now they are a rarity.

The Gardens of the Alhambra and Generalife, Granada, Spain – Part two Partal and Generalife

Part two. After leaving The Nasrid Palaces in part one on a timed visit we walked through the Partal gardens, Upper Alhambra gardens and headed towards the Generalife. In the Nasrid period there would of been streets and houses here occupied by wealthy people – high ranking court officials, religious and administrative buildings and several small palaces and gardens.

Partal Gardens

One of the series of gardens within the Alhambra complex near to the Palace of the Partal

After Granada was captured in 1492 the houses fell to ruin, some were destroyed or built over and the occupants were forced to move away to the outlying Albaycin area. In the 1930’s a new style of landscaping began here as a part of the re-discovery of Alhambra.

We walked in any shade we could find through the Partal gardens along the route which passed the Tower of the Princesses, named after Washington Irvin’s tale, towards the area known as the New Generalife gardens.

Tower of the Princesses seen from the new Generalife gardens

Tower of the Princesses seen from the new Generalife gardens

The New Gardens occupy a part of the old Orchards of the medieval almunia (a kind of agricultural settlement in Hispano-Islamic times).

New Gardens

Water Pool in New Gardens

The architect Leopoldo Torres Balbas created these gardens between 1931-32. There were signs for visitors explaining that the health and appearance of the Cypress Trees had been adversely affected by the unsuitable planting and growing conditions. Hence the Cypress walls in the new gardens are also undergoing restoration, which will last several years.

Welcome seating along the central pool

Welcome seating along the central pool with some of the walls of Cypress

The gardens in place, were lush and filled with wild loose planting, Roses and Orange trees, which must provide inspiration to garden designers the world over.

New Garden loose planting

New Garden loose planting

Just before the entrance to the Generalife Palace Gardens there is another more formal area with seating, wonderful Orange trees, more roses and pools of refreshing water, if we had not been so eager to see the Palace gardens we would of lingered longer.


Garden by the Palace entrance

We walked through the modest public entrance, where a guide electronically notes your ticket number, there is only one visit allowed into the two Palace Gardens. We walked through another courtyard once used as the Stable yard and now lined with Orange trees and through to the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch. A fourfold garden divided by a water rill and backed by high walls.

The Patio of the Irrigation Ditch

The Patio of the Irrigation Ditch with the viewing Pavilion above

The water pool is 48.70 metres long by 12.80 wide. The small trees are Pomegranates, one on each side of the central axis. The 18 arches seen on the left hand side of this photo were added in 1670 when this area was altered to a Christian chamber and two further rooms were added. The restoration in 1926 removed these additional rooms and restored the patio to its original appearance.


Pomegranate Trees and water spouts in the Patio of the Irrigation

Although, the water spouts were a 19th century addition as were the raising of the beds which were originally 50 cms below the paths. Leading through the decorated arches at the far end we walked on to the Patio of the Cypresses.

Patio of the Cypresses

Patio of the Cypresses

The pool is surrounded by Myrtle Hedges and planted with roses. We read that the old cypresses on the verandas give the patio its name. The most famous is the Cypress of the Sultana in which according to legend, Boabdil’s wife used to meet another man. This led to the death of the people of the man’s tribe, their throats were slit.

Orange Tree in the Patio of the Cypresses

Orange Tree in the Patio of the Cypresses

Stairs lead out of the palace gardens to the higher level where there are more gardens to walk in, to one side is the staircase archaeologists believe to have been in Granada before the Nasrid rulers, we walked back through the avenue of Cypress tress, some are hundreds of years old, we read that some specimens are over 1,000 years old.  We felt privileged to visit.

(I gave details of buying tickets in my first post, its best to book in advance, we were advised that tickets are released 6 weeks before and sell out very quickly, so for a June 1st visit they were released on April 20th. There are lots of options including guided tours on the Alhambra official website and bookings were through ticket master).

Recommended reading ‘The Alhambra’ by Robert Irwin – very readable book explaining the history of the Alhambra.

Enveloped at Wisley

This weeks photo challenge is Envelope. I hadn’t planned to take part and then under the shade of a Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’ at Wisley today, I watched several species of Bumblebee dip in and out of the Laburnam racemes, enveloped by the mostly yellow flowers. As this Laburnam is a horticultural curiosity, there are pink flowers too.

Laburnhamcytisus 'Adamii'

Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’

Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’ is a graft-hybrid between Laburnham and Purple Broom. The tree at Wisley caught my eye as from a distance I thought a clematis was running through it and then up close could see the pink flowers were a part of the tree too.


Enveloped by Laburnam racemes Bumblebee heavily laden with pollen

There was much to see at Wisley in the sunshine today, hopefully the rain due at Chelsea this coming week will be kinder than forecast.

Wildlife Wednesday – Looking back at our April Wildlife Visitors

My post to Join in with Tina from My Gardener Says and her wonderful monthly meme Wildlife Wednesday

Gardening Jules

April arrived and brought an explosion of foliage and flowers, along with nesting Blue Tits, Starlings and for a brief time Coal Tits but we think they have abandoned their nest. And somewhere in the undergrowth hidden from view a Mallard duck made a nest too.

Mallard Duck Chicks Mallard Duck Chicks up on our patio

We are separated from a tributary to the River Flit by the 15 metre width of my neighbours garden. Our boundary is mostly made up of a solid fence but at one point about 30 metres of trellis and chain link fence, this lets more light into my garden and as we like each other a little lack of privacy is fine by us both. The trellis supports old roses and ivy.

Looking for the gap in the fence to take her chicks to water Looking for a gap in the fence to take her chicks to water

But Mother Duck having nested and succesfully hatched 12 chicks in our…

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Reward – Visiting the Garden of Ninfa

Its easy to fall in love with this wonderful romantic garden but the reward of finally visiting and experiencing breath taking joy is something I will never forget.

Roses in the Garden of Ninfa

Roses in the Garden of Ninfa

For this weeks challenge, I thought of the long walks, cycle rides, hills and the odd mountain we had climbed to stretch our bodies and be rewarded by spectacular views but chose visiting the Garden of Ninfa in Italy and finally seeing the crumbling walls covered in Roses as my response to this challenge.

My piece on the Gardens of Ninfa was written shortly after I began blogging and since that time have met many people I would not have met before, who have given me great advice, been extremely kind and who have opened my eyes with some wonderful blogs on so many beautiful plants and places across the world.

Please visit the photo challenge page to see how other folk have responded to the Reward challenge.