Show the Love & Beyond.

St Peter’s churchyard was decorated with green Show the Love, handmade hearts in February 2021. Trees along the paths and the railings were decorated by local people and groups. This was a community effort to join in with the Climate Coalitions call to #Showthelove for our world.

2021 is a very important year for the future of our planet with the UN Climate Summit COP 26 taking place in Glasgow in November.  We need the UK to ensure that the Climate Summit is successful and sets us on the path to a safe climate for all. Underpinning all of this is the imperative that global economic recovery is sustainable and doesn’t prevent us from limiting warming to no more than 1.5C.

Because of this the Climate Coalition are encouraging communities to have a Great Big Green Week in September as a call for action on climate change. Here are some of their ideas, ‘From local park clean ups and planting sessions, to concerts and community group stalls, you can plan events to suit your community. For guidance on how you can organise an event or green week, visit greatbiggreenweek.com

Already plans are being discussed in Belper and ideas being thought of. The date of the week is from September 18th – September 26th. Still hopefully plenty of time to plan. 

I have recently read Rob Hopkins book, From What Is to What If (Unleashing the power of imagination to create the future we want). It is full of inspiring stories of communities working together to improve their lives, the places where they live and helping to look after the planet. Rob emphasises how important it is to start by imagining the future you would like and then work out ways of helping that future happen.

We can all do something however small and lots of small things do make a difference. We can also join in collective movements to make sure our Government and local authorities know that we think the issue of Climate Change and the Climate Crisis must be taken seriously.

In the last two years I have changed my gardening habits and have tried to think of ways to garden to help wildlife. In the garden we can make a difference and some of what we need to do actually saves time and money. Last year we only mowed our lawn twice and in between allowed the grass to grow along with the daisies, dandelions and clover. One of the things that really bothers me is how many front gardens are paved over for cars. This could be mitigated with a few pots of suitable bushes and flowers to make a difference for bees and insects .

Another easy thing households can do is to stop using any sort of pesticide as this is harmful to all insects and other creatures who eat the insects. Last year I made my first wildlife pond in an old washing up bowl and then enjoyed seeing it regularly used by birds and frogs. A small effort can give a lot of enjoyment. This year I have gone a little larger by digging a bigger hole and using a liner. On one afternoon I watched starlings, blackbirds and sparrows taking turns to bath. One really important thing we can all do is to be untidy. When we do any pruning I now leave piles of branches under bushes and have seen wrens hopping about looking for bugs to eat.

More advice on gardening for wildlife can be found here, RSPB website and on the Wildlife Trusts website. Watching the birds, frogs, squirrels, bees and insects has given us so much pleasure during the last year of on and off lockdowns.

Felley Priory

I love to visit the beautiful gardens of Felley Priory. Felley Priory like Dale Abbey was reputed to have been built on the site of a small hermitage. Unlike Dale Abbey no one is sure where the hermit’s dwelling had originally been. The Priory of Felley and the Priory Gardens are situated just half a mile from Junction 27 of the M1 and 16 miles from Dale Abbey. 

The front of Felley Priory House

Felley Priory was founded in 1156 dedicated to Our Lady. It consisted of twelve canons following the Rule of St Augustine. Like Dale Abbey the priory was not always managed well and in 1276 its prior was deposed for mismanagement and misbehaviour. He had permitted the priory buildings to fall into disrepair and, ‘the canons had erred and strayed to the scandal of the neighbourhood.’

Darley Abbey Hydrangeas

Yesterday we had a lovely walk in Darley Park. The sun was shining and the trees were changing colour. We took the opportunity to visit the walled Hydrangea Garden before it shuts to the public on November 3rd. The garden is looked after by a team of volunteers and it was obvious that since our last visit in 2019 a huge amount of work had been done. The garden houses the National Collection of Hydrangea Paniculata.

Hydrangea Derby, (the name of the voluntary group) was set up in 2010 to look after the Hydrangea Garden and in the last 10 years they have become the National Collection, the only such collection in the world. They also have a wide variety of other hydrangea species. The garden now holds 890 different cultivars.

Nature during Lockdown

Lockdown because of the Coronavirus started in the UK in the middle of March 2020. This has been a very strange time for all of us and has affected people in so many different ways. At the start we were asked by the government to basically stay at home, if that was possible and only leave the house for one hour a day for some outside exercise. Obviously the possibility of this varied because of our different circumstances. I have been very lucky to have time to learn new skills, more time to garden and observe wildlife. I realise that for many life became more stressful and do hope that the natural world has helped them cope.

Some of the immediate effects were better air quality, less noise and those who went outside started to notice the wildlife and wild plants near to their homes. As someone who has always loved the natural world it has been most interesting to continuously walk the same fields and really notice the progression of flowering plants in the fields and hedgerows. I have written about this in a previous blog Wildflowers during Lockdown. I am more aware of all the small creatures we share the world with and now watch continuously for a slight movement that means I am not alone.

Wildlife Gardening

There are definite advantages to gardening for wildlife. When I decided I no longer wanted an immaculate garden but a garden that would attract as much wildlife as possible the first thing I did was stop the war on weeds. 

I used to start my gardening year by spending a couple of weeks crawling under bushes trying to dig up weeds. I now leave most of them and although many of the flowers are small they are still beautiful. One of the first weeds/flowers I noticed was Hairy Bittercress. This plant has tiny white flowers and is edible, tasting like cress it works well as part of a salad or in a sandwich.  http://thegoodliferevival.com/blog/hairy-bittercress

Hairy Bittercress tastes good in a sandwich.

The second plant/weed that I have plenty of is Wood Avens. These like damp shady conditions and there are many areas in my garden that it loves. The flowers are small and yellow, the seed heads are attractive and can stick to your clothes. It is another edible plant. https://www.wildfooduk.com/edible-wild-plants/wood-avens/ 

Wood Avens also known as Herb Bennet

Both of the previous plants have added themselves to my garden and so has this next beautiful yellow flower. I still do not know what it is but it grows happily in the garden and I like the look of it.

Unknown yellow flower, seeds itself all over the garden.

In the last two years I have been adding wildflowers to the borders, some grow well while others seem to disappear without a trace. Rose Campions and Betony were the first to give plenty of flowers.

This year 2020, I have added Cowslips, Oxeye Daisies, Comfrey and Borage. A large clump of Common Ragwort has also appeared.

We have allowed our small amount of lawn to grow for several weeks and by mid July only cut it twice. This has allowed clover, buttercups and some meadow grasses to appear. The bees and hover flies have been very happy.

I wanted to add a pond to the garden. Our garden is heavy clay, difficult to dig in the winter because of its stickiness and in Summer like concrete.  I started digging in March and then lockdown happened. Having no pond liner I used an old washing up bowl, surrounded it with rocks and added a couple of water plants. I placed rocks inside the bowl to enable birds to drink safely and was very pleased to notice blackbirds and robins using it regularly . Early in June I noticed a frog had moved in and now in July I have seen two frogs and several froglets.

We have a bird table, bird feeders, piles of rocks and logs and some messy corners. All Winter we were visited each day by a pair of Bullfinches and now have regular visits from families of Long Tailed Tits and Blue Tits. A Wood pigeon has nested in a hawthorn tree just beside the patio in what looks like a very precarious structure.  Our favourite resident however has to be the one legged Robin. 

Here is a list of other birds seen, Nuthatches, Jay, House Sparrows, Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Hedge Sparrows, Starlings, Blackbirds, Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Wren, Song Thrushes and Wood Pigeons. Other garden visitors include a hedgehog, a family of squirrels and several frogs. Butterflies include Speckled Wood, Large White, Gatekeeper, Orange-tip, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell  and Common Blue. Last summer we also saw Peacocks and Painted Ladies. I have noticed the caterpillars of Mullein moths on the Buddleia and a Dragonfly in the front garden. A useful site for identifying butterflies  https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/identify-a-butterfly

Having spent more time than usual pottering around the garden I have become aware of different bee species.  Firstly I noticed Tree Bumblebees which were first seen in the UK in 2001. I have also observed something that I have never seen before, Bumblebee’s mating. The action was happening on a gravel area. Then to my surprise the queen starting to try to fly off, she bumped up and down along a path and then managed to get airborne with the male still attached to her.  

I have grown Nasturtiums in pots and found them a most interesting addition to the garden. We have eaten their leaves and flowers in salads, the bees have enjoyed their nectar and I am saving the seeds to pickle when I have enough of them to fill a jar.

Lastly here are some books I have read and recommend.

More About Bees

I am becoming increasingly more fascinated by bees and can report that in my garden I have identified, Buff-tailed-bumblebees, Tree-bumblebees, Garden-bumblebees, a Mining-bee and a Hover-fly which looks very similar to a Honey-bee. Apparently Hover-flies have short antenna and only one pair of wings. One of the best sites I have discovered for simple identification of bees is Friendsoftheearth.uk

Hover-fly that looks similar to a Honey-bee.

A bee has a brain about the size of a sesame seed, (it is 20 times denser than a mammals brain) and they can do so many amazing things. Many scientists have spent years researching their behaviour, Dave Goulson  lecturer at the University of Sussex tells in his book A Sting in the Tale, about four years research he did while working at Southampton University. He wanted to find out how bees knew which flowers had plenty of nectar and which are temporarily low in nectar. He discovered that bees have smelly feet and if a bee had drained a flower of nectar another bee will be able to tell by the smell of the previous bees feet. 

The book I am reading at the moment.

I think bees are very clever and are confusing us all. Looking on the internet I notice more research has been done and some scientists say bees know which flowers to go to for nectar by learning scent patterns. This is what the Independent said in 2018,

‘A team of scientists from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Bristol studied how the arrangement of cells on flowers’ petals are arranged in patterns. These are recognised and learned by bees, enabling them to distinguish between flowers.’

Other scientists at Bristol University have done some research on what they call electric fields around flowers and this was published in 2013. 

The University of Bristol have shown that bumblebees can sense the electric field that surrounds a flower. They can even learn to distinguish between fields produced by different floral shapes, or use them to work out whether a flower has been recently visited by other bees. Flowers aren’t just visual spectacles and smelly beacons. They’re also electric billboards’

In other words we still don’t really know every skill or sense that a bee uses to locate the nectar they need. I have found out however that flowers make more nectar once a bee has had its fill. This was something I had wondered about as there are so many bees in my garden this year. I thought they would be draining the flowers and then have nothing left to eat but that doesnt seem to be a problem. Flowers are also very clever in the way they attract bees and then refill their nectar store to keep the bees coming back.

Bees collect nectar by sucking droplets with their proboscis (a straw like tongue), some bees has short proboscis will others have longer ones. Short-tongued bumblebees are able to extract the nectar from flowers with an open shape, like brambles and raspberries, whereas long-tongued bumblebees can reach nectar deep inside long, tubular flowers such as foxgloves.

This year one of the good things for me having been forced to spend more time at home has been to watch the bees in the garden. I realise how lucky I am that I have a garden and I don’t work in a stressful job. I have also been experimenting with knitting a slightly more realistic woolly bee and so I am adding the pattern to this blog.

Bee with pipe cleaner legs
Bee with crocheted legs.
I am not sure which species of bee this is!

Getting to know Garden Bees

I have to admit that most of my life I have not taken too much notice of bees. I have not been afraid of them because I believed they wouldn’t want to sting me and only do so as a last resort, unlike wasps. My ignorance was so bad that I didn’t realise that there were bumblebees and honey bees. I thought that all bees were black and yellow striped and fluffy looking. When I heard about bee decline and how important they were for pollinating and therefore our survival, I started to take more notice. I was amazed to discover there are several hundred different species of bee in the UK alone and that not all bees make honey, but all I believe collect pollen.

Tree Bumblebee on the cotoneaster

There is so much information today on the internet that anyone who wants to find out more has no excuse. Sites such as the different Wildlife Trusts , Countryfile , Blooms for Bees , and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust , to name just a few. It can be rather daunting however as within one species of bee the Queen, the Workers and the Male bees can be different sizes and have colour variations. As to really get to grips with bees would take a lifetime, I decided that with the lovely weather and restrictions on movement during lockdown, I would try to discover what bees visit my garden and learn to recognise them. 

Just received this by post, published this month May 2020

I have also been reading some really useful books on the subject such as The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon, hot off the press this spring. It is a most beautifully produced book with fantastic photographs, perfect for anyone of any age who would like to get to know a bit more about the world of bees. There is a book review here, Kids of the Wild.

I have also listened on Audible to the book by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, Dancing with Bees, a journey back to nature. Brigit writes about her love of the natural world and how important it can be for our mental health. She gives us a lot of very interesting information about bees and other garden wildlife. This book was published in Summer 2019. More information can be found here on Brigit’s Blog. I can thoroughly recommend both of these books for a beginner who would like to know more about the world of bees.

Anyway to get back to my garden bees. So far I have discovered four different species which I now hope I would be able to recognise again. The first and probably the one I have seen most of is a new comer to our UK gardens, the Tree Bumblebee. This bee has been very obliging and I have managed to take a few photographs.

I have designed a knitted bee that has a resemblance to the Tree bumblebee. I will add this pattern to my next blog post for anyone who would like to try knitting one. The Tree Bumblebee has only been here since about the year 2000 but does seem to like the flowers we have in our garden. More information can be found HERE

The second species I have noticed in the garden is the Buff-tailed bumblebee. This one is a bit confusing as apparently it is the Queen whose tail is buff coloured but the workers have white tails. They have two yellow stripes not three like the Garden bumblebee. I noticed one of these bees on the cotoneaster but it would not stay very still for me to photograph consequently my picture is very blurred.

Buff Tailed bumblebee

I found a bee lying on its back in our dining room, thinking it was dead I got a piece of kitchen roll to pick it up. When I put my hand near the bee it moved and clung onto the paper towel. I quickly took it outside and placed on some weigela flowers, the bee immediately moved into one of them. It spent about thirty minutes eating and resting before flying off. I believe this was a solitary bee called a mason bee. I have now bought a home for mason Bees and really hope someone moves in https://www.masonbees.co.uk

We also have some bees nesting under our shed but to be honest I am not sure what species they are but could be the Buff tailed. I have noticed a bee on our walks which seemed to like to burrow into hard ground and I think this may have been a Mining Bee.

A small selection of UK bees.

My next blog will have details of knitting your own Tree bumblebee or possibly bee species of your choice.

#showthelove Event Belper

Belper’s first ‘Show the Love’, Eco Event took place on Saturday February 15th in St Peter’s Church. It was a very wet and windy weekend but this did not deter people from attending which was fantastic. The idea was to have a variety of organisations for the public to talk to about the issues of our changing climate and how we can each take a few steps towards living more sustainably.We are not all going to agree on all the issues but it is important to have conversations and then decide what we feel is our personal next step forward. Maybe the biggest thing we can do is consume less and consequently waste less, working towards saving both money and our planet.
Last Saturday we were challenged by India to consider eating Edible Insects and if this was not something you could do, what about your Pets? The Guardian newspaper published an article which said that 25% of the impact of meat production comes from the pet food industry. Is it time we changed what we feed our cats and dogs? India had a selection of Edible Insects from Crunchy Critters at Ilkeston and had baked some chocolate brownies made with cricket flour.George with his Belper Beats Plastic stand had hints and tips for reducing plastic but also asked people to sign his petition. The petition hopes to persuade Amber Valley Borough Council to give better information on items that can be put in our household recycling bins. George is concerned that many people may be contaminating their recycling unintentionally  causing lorry loads to end up in landfill. He also wants the council to take food waste and turn this into compost.Marisha and Andy had information and examples of things that can now be recycled through their small business Hidden Potential Recycling.Sue from Sue’s Sustainables had lots of help and advice on changes we can make to live more sustainably. She also started the food waste initiative, Sharing not Wasting and of course runs Belper’s first almost plastic free shop.

Charlotte continued to promote the Refill Belper, scheme and sell reusable water bottles. She has worked hard to persuade cafes and other businesses to fill the publics reusable bottles so that less single use plastic bottles are bought and then very quickly end up in the bin.There were stands with information about local initiatives and volunteering opportunities. These included Belper Parks Wood Volunteers, St Peter’s Community Garden, Belper Permaculture Network, The Woodland Trust and Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. We we’re encouraged to consider how we manage our own gardens and consider leaving areas to grow wild for insects, birds and small mammals. There were free wooden blue hearts and fabric blue hearts, plus packets of free seeds. The idea of the blue heart is to show that an area is being left and why, hopefully to encourage more wild areas in the town.Noah gave away Show the Love badges, made and designed by India. He also encouraged people to give donations for some Eco booklets written by four young people and the money raised was given to The Woodland Trust.Derby Greenpeace had information on electric cars among other things and we were very lucky to have two parked at the front of the church. The Derwent Valley Trust had a map of their proposed Cycleway along the valley thus making cycling a safer and more enjoyable option.Transition Belper had a very informative stand detailing their many projects in the town. Through them households can get help and advice about their energy use. They also promoted Belper Goes Green which this year will happen on the last weekend in May 2020.Its important that we help to educate young people about the effects of climate change and they need knowledge about what their personal carbon footprint is. These are issues that will effect them all but we need to be careful not to frighten.  One way of doing this is through story books such as ‘Carbon Monster’. Katherine Wheatley author of this book helped to run a children’s activity and gave us the exciting news that her second book will be published in April this year.There was an opportunity for anyone of any age to print a design of their choice with Jane a member of Derby Extinction RebellionKim and Heather had lots of information and examples of sustainable fabrics such as wool, linen and flax. Heather had examples of yarn she had spun from banana skins and mint tops and Kim had examples of how she uses sustainable fibres in her work.There was a cafe area and plenty of time for people to chat.The conversations about caring for our environment will continue in Belper and hopefully we will all work together as a community who cares.

Community Spaces in the North East

I have just returned home from a few days staying in a cottage near Whitley Bay in the North East of England. During the visit I was very interested to see two community projects which were both in different ways a little unexpected. The first was a Community Garden in the walled garden area of a National Trust House and the second was made for the community by an open cast mining company. Continue reading Community Spaces in the North East

Belper in Bloom

Once again this year Belper will enter the RHS Britain in Bloom competition. The competition is now over fifty years old and is entered by communities in towns, villages and cities with different categories for each size of settlement. Groups are assessed for their achievements in three core areas: Horticultural Excellence; Environmental Responsibility; and Community Participation. Over 1,600 communities around the UK enter each year, participating in their local region’s  “in Bloom” campaign. From these regional competitions, roughly 80 communities are selected to enter the national Finals of RHS Britain in Bloom.Last year ‘Belper in Bloom’  was selected to represent the East Midlands in the Large Town Category in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom UK Finals.

Andrea Van Sittart, RHS Head of Community Outreach, reacted by saying: “Congratulations to Belper on reaching the UK Finals of this year’s RHS Britain in Bloom campaign. To represent their region on the UK stage is an incredible achievement and shows they are already at the top level of community gardening, going the extra mile to improve their local area and make it cleaner, greener and more beautiful for everyone.”

Belper has numerous  volunteers and groups who get involved with the towns involvement in Britain in Bloom. These include Belper Gardening Group, Transition Belper, the Open Gardens Team, Belper Goes Green, Friends of the River Gardens, Guides, Brownies, Scouts, local schools and for the first time this year St Peter’s Parish Community Garden. As well as volunteers, the staff at Belper Town Council and Amber Valley Borough Council, will be working to make Belper bloom. Once again this year they will be planting thousands of bedding plants in the parks and planters in and around the town, putting up hundreds of hanging baskets, keeping Belper Railway Station and the grounds of Strutts looking beautiful and keeping the Parks, Wyver Lane and other Nature Reserves accessible and well maintained.

This year as part of the town effort the Belper Woollen Woods are asking  local people who can knit, crochet or felt to make flowers which will be used to brighten up part of the route that the judges will walk along.Belper is a fantastic town full of residents willing to be part of Community events. So I am asking everyone who reads this to help make flowers for the Belper in Bloom Group. There are plenty of free patterns on the internet that can be used for events such as this.

I am a knitter so I am adding a few quick and simple knitting patterns to this blog post. However flowers can be crocheted or made out of felt.Flower OneOne main colour of DK Yarn (A) and a small amount of a different colour for the centre of the flower, (B). Needles size 3.25 (10)

Body of Flower Using Col A Cast on 60 stitches
Rows 1 –10 : K2, P2 across whole row. Row 11 : Knit 2 stitches together across the row (30 sts).
Row 12 : Slip 1 stitch, Knit 2 stitches together then pass the slip stitch over… repeat across the whole row (10 stitches).
Break off yarn with long tail and thread back through remaining stitches and pull tight. Join edges with mattress stitch

Centre of Flower Using B, cast on 20 sts, knit 2 rows, cut the yarn and thread through all the stitches. Pull the thread tight and sew base to the centre.

Flower TwoUsing 3.23mm (10) needles and DK yarn, cast on 160 sts, Knit two rows. Next row: Knit two together across the row (80 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (40 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (20 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (10 sts)

Break off yarn with long tail and thread back through remaining stitches and pull tight. Join edges with mattress stitch.

The flower will naturally curl to make an interesting shape.

Flower ThreeUsing 3.25mm (10) needles and DK yarn, cast on seven sts

Row 1: knit,  Row 2: Knit 1, kfb k to last two sts, kfb, k1. (9 sts)

Row3:as Row2. (11sts),     Row 4: as Row 2. (13 sts)

Rows 5-8: knit,    Row 9: Knit 1 (knit two together through the back of the loops) twice,   k to last four sts, (k2tog) twice. (9 sts)

Rows 10-12: knit,   Row 13: (k2tog through the back of the loop) twice, k to last four sts, (k2tog) twice. (5 sts)

Rows 14-16: knit,    Row 17: knit 1, slip 1,k2tog, psso, k1. (3 sts)

Row 18: knit and then Cast off.

Make three or four more petals to complete the flower.

Sew lower sections of petals together by threading a length of wool through all five petals and pull up tightly.

Centre of Flower Cast on 20 sts. Knit 2 rows.

Cut the yarn and thread through all of the stitches and pull to make a circle, sew onto the centre of the flower.

Flower FourUsing DK yarn and size 3.25 (10) needles cast on 86 sts. Knit 2 rows.

Last Row, (Knit 2 sts, cast off 12 sts) repeat this across the row.

Cut the yarn and thread through the remaining stitches and pull up to make a flower that looks a bit like a daisy. Put in a few stitches to hold in place.

Flower Centre Cast on 20 sts. Knit 2 rows. Cut the yarn and thread through all of the stitches and pull to make a circle, sew onto the centre of the flower.

It would be fantastic if lots of people would help with this effort and we do not have very long before Britain in Bloom. The completed flowers can be left in a box in St Peter’s Church Chesterfield Road, Belper or given to me Anne Clark

If you would like to print off the patterns here is a PDF Flowers