Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Butterfly at dusk

This butterfly was sipping the last sweet nectar ….

Butterfly wings open at dusk Butterfly at dusk

Butterfly - butterfly at dusk 

*This butterfly has similar markings to a fritillary – its spots are in line and it has a wingspan of approximately 6 cm – and resembles a High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe) which usually lives on the edges of woodland – more common in the South of England but extends throughout the whole of England and Wales. It’s usual wingspan is from 5.5 cm but occasionally the odd one extends to just over 6 cm.

… on the very last few minutes of the day ……

Evening – lake and land

The birds watch for food even when the night is approaching … there is always time for watching for food …

Arrow Valley - Canada Geese, Swans, Mallard ... Late September - evening

Arrow Valley - Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard ... Late September - evening

Arrow Valley - Canada Goose in foreground - Late September - evening 

Evening at the water’s edge of Arrow Valley Lake in Worcestershire

Late sultry, September scene

Every year Autumn paints scenes which I often feel can never be surpassed let alone repeated … this year the bright red of the leaves are as vivid as any flower. Far brighter than the cardinal quarry tiles that once adorned the top steps of houses. This year many trees waver between the bright scarlet and cherry red lips of war-time starlets … truly breathtaking.

The last day of September - Autumn red leaves

Autumn scene

Lace leaf elder - Laciniata leaf

Whilst walking in a woody area on the Worcestershire Warwickshire border I came across some Elder var shrubs. These are the delightful lacy-leaf elders that have an almost tropical presence about them. Their leaves are not quite as pungent as the standard Sambucus nigra and their flowers are slightly more sparse producing a rather frail spray of fruit. Nevertheless, the fruit is still edible and will produce a wonderfully rich flavoured compote.

Elder var - lace leaf elder

Elder var fruit - lace leaf elderberries

Leaves of the Elder var - lace leaf elderberry


Elder var – lace-leafed elder (the middle picture shows the sparseness of the fruit that is produced on this variety of Sambucus nigra, the elderberry. This can grow as a tree or often extremely fast growing young shoots emerge from a very old and gnarled bole and produce a shrub).

Bees are buzzing

May be it is the fact that we could be experiencing an Indian Summer that has made so many creatures change their patterns of behaviour. It is so unusual to see the leaf-cutter bees returning and making further chambers so late in the year – but they are back and busier than ever.

Leaf-cutter bees - Autumn return

Leaf-cutter bees return in the Autumn

Leaf-cutter bees … fill up a few more chambers in the Autumn (this is the first year that I have ever seen the bees return to lay more eggs)

Calla lily

This Calla lily, a South African plant, was given to me as a present. To give a lily has special meaning. The first is easy to remember as it is signified by the shape of the flower, a horn or trumpet which calls hope from afar. The second is taken from the new growth forever pushing upwards and stands for life. The third from the simplicity of the flower is purity. The fourth is the military way the plant holds itself and represents steadfastness. The fifth is the shape of the leaf which is pointed like a spear or arrow and means love – some say that its leaves are the very arrows of cupid.

Never give a lily plant to anyone that you truly do not care about as it is thought to bring misfortune to a person who is not presenting their heart.

Plant lilies in your garden if you have someone who is away to deliver them safely back to you …

‘Treasure the lily for it shows the path that the purest soul may take to reach safety.’ Anon

Calla Lily -

Calla Lily

Calla Lily

The Calla lily sheds tears every evening and through the night and you can see the tear drops forming at the tips of the leaves. When it is morning the tears stop.

A cat came to my door on a …

I am still visited by the ‘would be’ stray cat who lately looks rather more sad than when he first appeared in our neighbourhood. He no longer has a collar. His fur looks duller. He looks thinner than he used to look … and those piercing, blue eyes stare unblinkingly as he sits and miaows in a pleadingly soulful way for some food. I always give in … and he bounces about so happily and scoffs with total abandonment. My cat tolerates him a little more than she used to but not to the point where he can pass the threshold.






“A cat is only a spit away from its wild relatives for you can never really own a cat. It will tolerate you but only for as long as you are useful. It will make you do its bidding. It will make you want it – but never confuse its gentle rubs or melodious purr for love for a cat is a survivor and it saves its affections for itself.” Anon

Eternal elderberry

‘It is a wise woman who picks the elderberry fruit for it is the fruit that holds many secrets. It stores the elixir of both health and youth. It keeps the soldier marching forth into battle. It makes the baby gurgle in the crib and children’s eyes shine like a thousand jewels.’

The elderberry has always been under estimated and yet it is a powerful tool in the medicine chest as it has many natural attributes. The main use that most are interested in is it’s power as an anti-viral food. It not only prevents colds and flu and other similar maladies but also helps the body to conquer any virus that it picks up.

The berries are gathered easily. The most difficult part is stripping them from their soft branch ends – this is best done manually. Wash the berries and then compote them with a little sugar. The result is a lovely soft compote, conserve or jam – highly nutritious and full of antiviral properties. Use it everywhere – spread it on bread or toast; cook it in a sponge pudding; dollop it on yoghurt or ice cream; serve it with custard; make it into tarts; pour some into semolina, tapioca, sago or rice pudding; put it into steamed puddings; spread it onto Swiss rolls, and so on …. It offers so much natural protection and the fruits grow wild and so they are free. Enjoy!




World population

We all rarely take time to consider what is really happening in the world … if you can spare just a few brief seconds - then please take a look at the following link and prepare to be truly amazed:


Worcestershire walk

Have you ever stumbled across a place that feels as though you may have tumbled straight into a children’s fairytale? I have found such a place. It is quiet, secretive, beautiful, enchanting and peaceful. I walked along its trail and felt as though I had entered into paradise. It is so magical that for once I think I’ll keep you all guessing and will lock its location away … as a secret …

Worcestershire walk

Worcestershire walk

Dusky, dark daggers

The lovely, light evenings are slowly getting shorter as each day nightfall begins slightly earlier. A few days ago I visited Arrow Valley Lake in Redditch, Worcestershire. The lake holds two islands, one slightly larger than the other. Whilst strolling along the edge of the lake I spotted a few Grey Herons. I always used to think of Herons as being friendly waders who occasionally jutted their beaks into the dark, murky waters to catch a small fish now and then. In actual fact they are quite large birds having wingspans of nearly one-and-a-half metres. They have eagle-like eyes for spotting food whilst they often perch aloft, quite still on a sturdy branch or dead tree they pose as a stone statue. When they spot the possibility of a meal whether it is a fish, a chick or even a baby rabbit they will usually manage to take it in their firm beaks and swallow it whole. They will take anything that will pass down their throats (these are mostly the young of other waders, or rodents). They will also take the occasional frog or larger insect. They have a propensity to congregate their living quarters in a similar fashion to rooks.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron ... stalking

Grey Heron

Herons - moving sculpture at Arrow Valley Lake Visitors Centre

Herons – moving sculpture at Arrow Valley Country Park Visitors Centre, Arrow Valley Lake

The above metal sculpture is positioned in a pond that is sited outside the Arrow Valley Country Park Visitors Centre … there are two herons which move upwards and downwards alternately in the reeds. They keep peeping out at the visitors as the enter and leave the visitors centre – a really charming piece of sculpture that captures the essence of a nature reserve.

Plump plum

The single plum on my oldest plum tree is ready for picking … Earlier in the year when the branches were littered with small star-like blossoms, I anticipated armfuls of beautiful fruits. The flowers all withered and blew off the branches and I tried to feel optimistic for at least the tree had blossomed, which it had failed to do on previous years. Then a few weeks ago I noticed just one solitary plum swaying from one of its back branches … here is the plum. I have placed it next to a peach and an ordinary plum and to show its actual size I have also placed a one penny piece as part of the picture.


Large plum, peach, plum and penny

Large plum ... black

Large black plum

Yellow dainty daisy

I found this pretty bright daisy on an afternoon walk. Known as Oxford Ragwort it presents itself as both a perennial and an annual which is an unusual combination for a plant. It tends to be more common from the Midlands to the South of England although the occasional plant is spotted on the coast in both the lower part of Scotland and the east of both the North and South of Ireland. It occurs in situations similar to the annual poppy, in other words on disturbed ground.

Oxford Ragwort

Oxford Ragwort (flowers from May right through and including December)

Penguin Plucker

This is a little film that I took of a penguin as he merrily rolled and plucked at his feathers whilst preening himself.

"If a picture paints a thousand words - then a video paints a memory." by Kloggers

Worcestershire emblem

The pear has always featured in Worcestershire emblems. This most probably relates back to the ‘Black Pear’ which is a very old variety of pear and was well established in Worcestershire by the 1500’s. It was most likely introduced around the time that the Romans invaded. The pear itself is known as the Black Pear is in fact rusty or russet in appearance with a tinge of purple hue. From a distance and especially towards twilight it has a tendency to look blackish. It has little flavour if eaten raw so has always been considered as a cooking pear. It has always been cooked very slowly and requires a good two to three-and-a-half hours to bring out all of its full and excellent flavour.
Sadly, I have never grown a Black Pear tree in my garden but I do have a most wonderful Conference Pear tree and like the Black Pear tree it never fails to give armfuls of fruit every year. It does have a slight advantage on the Black Pear in that it can be eaten either as a desert raw fruit or cooked in a pudding.
Conference Pear Tree branch
Conference Pear Tree
Conference Pear Tree

Happy hot herb

As a child we grew nasturtiums in the whole of the back border. It was a riot of colour as all variations of nasturtium bloomed as they galloped over every square inch of vacant soil. They have always grown easily and without so much as an after thought. I just simply scattered the seed, roughly covered it with the blunt end of the rake and within a few short weeks they were up and away. That was until we moved into this little corner of Worcestershire. Here for some reason – at least so far – each nasturtium that I have grown has been quite a frail looking specimen. Each year I keep trying and have purchased several nasturtium varieties but with little success. I’ve planted in full sunshine and partial shade – all have had quite sad results. This is a picture of my most healthiest nasturtium yet …

Red Nasturtium

Red Nasturtium 

Nasturtiums are a herb and they originate from Peru. It is claimed that they are a flamboyant aphrodisiac. They are best noted for their ability to purify the blood and it is useful to note that their medicinal qualities include treatment of respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, bronchitis and kidney.

Use young and tender leaves as watercress; flowers may be chopped and added to salads, warm dishes or used whole as an edible garnish; seeds and buds may be pickled and used like capers.

Goji berry flower

The Goji berry bushes originate from the Himalayas where they are naturally wild. Their Latin name is Lycium barbarum. They were established in England in the 1600’s and were commonly called the wolf berry or Chinese wolf berry and were also known as Chinese boxthorn.

I had given up on my Goji berry bushes this year, (I have three little ones) as there has been no sign of anything other than lengthening of the long winding stems and leaf growth. Late this evening, whilst putting a few small crumbs out for the birds I thought that I noticed something on one of the bushes. To my surprise there was blossom, not much just a few little flowers … will I now have the pleasure of at least one berry to try fresh? The fresh berries, I am told mark easily and quickly become stained and should be lightly shaken off the bushes holding a muslin cloth or tea towel to collect them in. I am also informed that to have them at their best they should never be handled – always avoid flesh touching them as this makes them perish. If I ever have berries I shall have to test this out for I have never heard of berries that are ‘untouchable!’

Goji berry flowers - used to be commonly called the wolf berry

Goji berry flowers - old name wolf berry

Goji berry or wolf berry in flower

Five Mute swans a-strolling

Experts advise that it has been a degree warmer this year than is usual. This has been especially noticeable in the early evenings and has taken me on many a late leisurely walk. On one such occasion a swan family danced delightfully across my path. The cob, his mate the pen and their inquisitive three cygnets. It is easy to forget that swans are both wild and strong especially when they are attending young. A cob can quite easily break someone’s arm if it feels threatened. So, even though it is tempting to stand near and reach out to touch it is best to stand back and leave the family to go about its business while discretely observing. Always remember to wait until they venture back into the water before being tempted to give them a few portions of bread. The bread must be wet, softened by the water so it will not cause harm when ingested by this beautiful bird.

Swans - a family consisting of the cob, pen and three cygnets Swans - the cob facing the camera, the pen facing her cygnets

Swans - the cob with a cygnet  Swans - the cob with two of his cygnets Swans - the pen with a cygnet Swans - three cygnets with the cob and pen - their father and mother

Mute Swan family – the pen, cob and three cygnets taking a stroll on the banks of a nearby lake … a beautiful sight!

Up and under

I spotted this upturned tree on a late afternoon stroll. Surprisingly, although it must have been dislodged in a storm, there is little evidence of any kind of root ball. What shocked me was the lack of any kind of visible roots at all. I have occasionally seen trees pulled up by a storm before but prior to this there has always been substantial roots attached to the base of the trunk. This was quite an established tree of many years growth and yet it didn’t appear to have any anchorage into the ground apart from a few wispy roots on the outer edge.

Upturned tree roots ... possible storm damage

Cuckoo Pint or dear Lords-and-Ladies

This time of year brings the bountiful berries. Most are scarlet red in their coats and brightly show up against a background of leafy greens. The Cuckoo Pint or Lords-and-Ladies as it is often called is a plant that is well remembered as it is usually first introduced to children whilst they are very young with a wagging finger and a stern warning not to pick it! Not to even touch it!!
Cuckoo Pint - Lords-and-Ladies - Alum Maculatum - grows up to 25 cm
Cuckoo Pint or Lords-and-Ladies - Alum Maculatum - grows to a height of 25 cm
Cuckoo Pint
The Cuckoo Pint is deadly poisonous – so is best left entirely alone. If it is used in flower arrangements then special care should be taken to wash the skin thoroughly so as not to transfer the poison in case it is accidentally ingested.
It’s bright red, sometimes orange berries brighten up the ground at the hedgerow’s feet beautifully.

Plum tucker

I love the thought of harvesting my own fruit  - and as long as you realise that fruit trees often have ‘rest’ periods (occasional years where they produce small amounts of crops), then you’ll never be disappointed with your own fruit trees. This year one of my baby plum trees has produced a heavy crop of large sweet and very juicy plums …

Baby plum tree - plum tucker

Two of the plum trees have remained dormant this year and the remaining two a Greengage and a Damson have both produced a small crop.

For those of you who may either have never heard of the Greengage let alone had the joy of tasting one then I would say that you are missing the ambrosia of the soft fruit family. For when the skin has slightly softened and lightened just a shade in colour, the flesh becomes so succulent and sweet that it is quite the temptation of Eve in the fruit family. It is the one soft English fruit that will grow well in the most roughest of gardens and needs so little attention it could almost be wild if it wasn’t for the fact that the plums are larger than their wild cousins. Even in planting little care is needed – simply just dig a hole, deposit the tree root, press it in then gently pour on two gallons of water (one large bucketful).

My oldest plum tree, I use the term loosely as it is only about six years old and so therefore really still quite an infant in the life of a tree, was showered with beautiful white flower blossom in the early Spring. I was expecting at least a wheelbarrow full of fruit from its branches but as is often the case in nature my tree proved to be a comedian as it produced just one fruit this year. The fruit is enormous for a plum but I almost didn’t spot it at all as it was hidden at the back of one of its highest branches …

A very large solitary English plum - the only fruit on the tree - September 2009

This solitary plum is not yet ready for eating as it is still very solid to the touch – I have to stand on a step ladder to reach it!

Monkey Musk – Monkey Flower – Mimulus

A very long time ago when I was a young girl my mother came home with a bag. Being curious, I asked her what the bag contained. A wide smile beamed from her face as she pronounced it was some ‘Monkey Musk.’ She opened the bag to show me quite a large root of a soft-green fleshy plant with beautiful bell like flowers. Each flower was bright yellow and marked with red spots – indeed both the shape of the flower and the spots did appear to resemble the face of a monkey. From that very second – I have always loved ‘Monkey Musk.’

Monkey Musk - Monkey Flower - Mimulus

The spots on this particular specimen are not quite as large as those that were on my mother’s plant. This particular version, although widely available in Garden Centres and Nurseries is predominantly wild and is often found beside water.

There are also many dwarf versions that are usually brightly coloured but are all either red, orange, yellow or watery red as a background petal colour. Some of the dwarf versions contain spots others are just one colour.

Earlier this year whilst on a visit to Little Heath Nurseries, I found an Orange Sorbet Monkey Musk plant and thought that this would make a nice addition to my garden.

Orange Sorbet Monkey Musk - Monkey Flower - Mimulus

Orange Sorbet Monkey Musk

I usually try and visit these particular nurseries when I can as not only do they often have some unusual plants but there is a shop attached to the nursery that is like an Aladdin’s Cave. It is full of unusual and wonderful household and gardening items and is worth a visit for anyone who may be in the vicinity or nearby.