Curtains at Manor Road Nurseries

I’ve spent ten years based in the offices adjacent to the glasshouses at Manor Road Nurseries in Scarborough. It is the longest I have remained with one employer and at one place of work. So it is with some sadness that I learned that my employer, Scarborough Borough Council, has resolved to dispose of the site next year. The political machinations have been protracted and at times controversial, but the site is to be sold off and we will be moving to another depot nearby, maybe as soon as next year.

Sadly then, the glasshouses will not replaced on the new site and effectively this closes a chapter in the history of in-house growing by the Council of plants for Scarborough, Whitby and Filey’s parks and gardens. We will be outsourcing plant production. It makes more commercial sense. Apparently.

Anyway, the decision was made some while ago and we have begun planning for the change. So on a November morning when the golden light was conducive I decided to grab some evocative snaps of the old place. I took lots but have shared some of my favourite ones here on my blog. I hope you like them.


The turn of the year

The one about the changing scenery of arable land after harvest time


IMG_0622As I travel to and from work at this time of year I am always struck by the rapid change in the farmed countryside at the turn of the farming year. After swaying cereal crops are harvested, in the long, settled days of August and September, then the bales appear, round or rectangular, arrayed in different patterns dependent upon each farm’s preference. Near Stamford Bridge we have fields which each harvest time are populated by huge monolithic stacks of straw bales, elsewhere I see ‘roly poly bales’ singly or grouped in threes.

The stubble fields can rapidly green up with a flush of weeds and these can be very valuable for wild birds and pollinators, which depend on the flowers or seeds they produce. Over-wintered stubbles have long been an option earning stewardship subsidies for their wildlife value. However, these are much less common now and more often than not I see that within a week they are cultivated, turning the landscape dark brown and giving rise to that distinctive smell of the earth on warm days of early autumn.

Muck spreading gives rise to another characteristic aroma at the turn of the year, wafting from the surrounding fields, even at quite some distance! From my vantage point on the upper deck of a Coastliner bus, (whisking along the A64, that artery linking Leeds with Scarborough by way of York and Malton) I can enjoy the changing scenes of farmland up above the hedgerows and away from any country smells in my comfortable seat. With wifi on board too, I can even blog about it in the process.

Here are a selection of images snapped from the top deck over the past few months.

The Lake District – World Heritage Site

The one about a big walk around Fairfield Horseshoe.


As the summer drew to a close, we enjoyed a few days’ family break based in Windermere, The Lake District. We enjoyed some great activities on and around the lake but one of my indulgences was a fell-walking day to myself, on a break from Daddy duty. Given that I learned the very same week of The Lake District’s new status as a World Heritage Site it seemed fitting to dedicate a blog to my fell-walk adventure, even though it is now some weeks ago… life gets in the way you know.

My choice of route was the classic ridge walk known as Fairfield Horseshoe. I took rather a lot of pictures, trying to enjoy both the lofty scenic views and the smaller close-up details of rocks and plants of the fell. In a previous post, called Textures, details and street greens I confessed my recent penchant for Instagram galleries with close up shots of patterns, rust, plants growing precariously from grates and such like. Take a look at my efforts if you choose among my own Instagram gallery and read the blog post for further insight in my photographic motivations.

Fairfield is a summit of decent proportions, not quite 3000ft but the circuit of the adjacent summits neatly brought the total ascent to that round figure. The most popular and I suppose easiest approach is from the head of Lake Windermere, usually Rydal (where I jumped off the 555 bus) or Ambleside from where two parallel ridges strike northwards. About half a dozen smaller peaks are taken in during the Horseshoe with names like Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Dove Crag and High Pike…I followed this clockwise circuit, the first pull up the fell was perspiration-inducing but not difficult and views backward over Windermere Lake became ever broader.

After a stop on the first summit to pull out my flask of coffee and remnants of the previous day’s ‘afternoon tea’ cake selection- I even attempted to jam a scone from my lofty repose -I made it up the steady pull towards Fairfield, after which exertions I donned my extra layers. The views were great, a full 360 panorama and a handy rock seat, made comfortable by a sit mat and my rucksack for a backrest proved a fitting perch to refuel and drink in the landscape.

I should say at this point that I am not a stranger to mountain walking, having clocked up a fair few Munros (the Scottish peaks over 3000ft) although it tends to be an annual binge over a long weekend in early spring each year with a regular posse of friends. We have for some years based ourselves at Killin, Perthshire, with access to many such mountains either east or west, whichever offers the better weather prospects. You may like to hear more about this another time, which I must keep in mind.

On leaving the summit plateau of Fairfield, striking SSE to follow the switchback ridge descending back to Ambleside I turned my attention more to photographic inspiration (the hard work of climbing largely behind me). So it was that my return route was punctuated by many stops and minor detours off the path to snap interesting rocks, plants and textures. I have included some of my favourites here for your interest. Take note if you will of the amazing dry stone wall leading all the way down the ridge crest, and dating, we are told to the 18th century enclosures as the boundary of Rydal Hall, of Wordsworth fame. I am not a great literary scholar, but I do appreciate a beautifully made drystone wall.

Bumblebee Beacons

The one the lure of Echinops flowers to bees…

July is almost over already, and seems to be going out on a moody note. For its last week, the weather has chosen to treat us to downpours, grey skies and a cooler feel to see out the month, with occasional interludes of hot sunshine.

In the garden the weather does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of bumblebees on the echinops, an ornamental thistle. This tall, butch perennial is reaching its peak of glory now and even on overcast days, bumblebees can be seen in good numbers on the steely-blue stars arrayed in globes atop the Echinops.

On a dull day the flowers of this plant can seem to glow in the gloom and certainly they must shine out as beacons to bees judging by the number working methodically over its starry orbs. I suspect this is one of those plants which strongly reflects ultra-violet light, a wavelength that pollinating insects and certainly bees look to guide them.

It doesn’t seem long since I was writing my daily blogs in June for 30 Days Wild and having taken a break from the challenge I am keen to get back to the WordPress dashboard and break the blog-fast. Of course it was not the finding of daily mindful moments in nature that posed a particular difficulty, for nature is all around us even in urban environments when we take notice. Rather the challenge was to take one of those momentary experiences each day and translate it into something meaningful and, I hope, interesting for the reader. A handy run-down of all my posts during the #30DaysWild challenge in June can be found in my previous blogpost. I would welcome your feedback as I have never tried a personal daily blog before and it was hard work!

So now that I have come back to the keyboard (or touch screen at least) I wonder what I should realistically aim for over a longer period. I think a post at least once per month should be quite achievable. Of course one feels that when it is less frequent, then it behoves the blogger to write of more momentous things than when tapping out some everyday musings. I hope that this won’t be a mental block to a regular-ish

blogging habit and trust that topics will come to mind that are both informative and enjoyable to read. May I just say thank you at this point for reading and encourage you to comment if you have any feedback on my blog posts so far and what you have enjoyed most.

Life after #30dayswild

So June has come to an end and with it this year’s challenge to find a little moment of wild each day for a month, but this is not the end for me or this blog.

Practising a sort of conscious and more deliberate connection with the natural world around me has become a habit. A sort of wilful quest to find everyday wildness if you like. It may not be possible to sustain the blogging on a daily basis – that certainly has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one. However I hope to keep this blog going with regular posts and updates, just a bit less intensively that is all.

I would say that crafting the posts has been a good learning process and developed my skills in writing and communicating about nature, so it has been beneficial on that score alone, regardless of how few or how many people I have reached with my #30dayswild evangelism. But blogging every day has felt like some of my good stuff has so quickly been displaced and pushed into the past, when a lot of it, not all I’d admit, deserved promoting and sharing a bit more via social media, twitter especially, if I was not hurrying to move on to the next installment.

So this feels like a good point at which to look back on my month-long challenge and remind myself of the blog posts that perhaps escaped attention as well as those that have received some views.

Day 1  Bumbling into my first blog post of #30DaysWild a story about a bumble bee rescue.

Day 2 Doing the Doodlebug finding a Cockchafer beetle outside school. I really liked this one, a nice little tale.

Day 3  Swallows at the Swim Pool about unexpectedly finding a nest with young swallows in.

Day 4 Things are looking up a day out at Newby Hall, taking photos from a different angle. Indulging my photographer’s eye for the unusual.

Day 5 Ransoms, raindrops and ripples a rainy day walk up Peasholm Glen, seeing surprising beauty in the midst of Scarborough.

Day 6 A cordial invitation deciding to make elderflower cordial, somewhat on a whim.

Day 7 Mid-week blues blue flowers in the churchyard.

Day 8 Stormy weather capturing a strange mood on General Election day.

Day 9 Buzz Stop blitz an impromptu spot of guerilla gardening in the village.

Day 10 Mite-y mollusc and masses of mint a close look at a garden snail with mystery mites on it.

Day 11 Summer Fair running a stall at the summer fair for Stamford Bridge in Bloom.

Day 12 Bramble is the Bees Knees a nest of tree bees and a bonanza of bramble flowers.

Day 13 Hogweeds good and bad about the merits of common hogweed and the hazards of giant hogweed.

Day 14 Textures, details and street greens One of my favourite posts, this, about my latest and rather niche Instagram tendencies…

Day 15 Happy skies Cloud spotting while waiting for a bus…

Day 16 Down in the meadow A morning event about scything for grassland conservation sites in York.

Day 17 Hush Hush, Song Thrush About encountering a newly fledged Thrush in the garden.

Day 18 Lower Derwent Valley A visit to Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve.

Day 19 Counting down to the orchid count Making preparations for a botanical survey on the coast

Day 20 Bus stop birding about a little patch of nature in Malton bus station.

Day 21 Solstice Strawberries Coffee break in the garden and a first picking of wild strawberries.

Day 22 A Swift Update A story about the joy of discovering nesting Swifts in Scarborough.

Day 23 Hunting for Corn Bunting Evening bike ride from Stamford Bridge to track down a bird with which I have a special relationship.

Day 24 Getting the right mix…in my compost heap!

Day 25 Traffic Tripits A bird survey at Dalby Forest.

Day 26 Beach Huts and Pyramids Counting pyramidal orchids on North Bay cliffs, Scarborough.

Day 27 Reflecting on #30DaysWild Looking back at my reflections on last year’s #30DaysWild

Day 28 Turtle-y Brilliant A really special one….sharing my excitement at being involved in a new conservation project to help Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire.

Day 29 Twitter Hats A re-blog of one of my earlier musings on multiple social media personalities!


Looking back over my month of blogging, there has been a good bit of diversity in the topics I covered and I have enjoyed sharing my nature experiences. I hope they bring some insight and enjoyment to others, so please do let me know if you have appreciated any of the #30DaysWild blogs. It would be great to know.

Twitter Hats

Originally posted on Connecting for Nature:
Well the New Year is firmly underway now and I’ve been conscious for a while that I ought to have a bit of a health-check of my social media activities for the Connecting for Nature  biodiversity partnership. This became possible thanks to a generous offer from Scarborough-based Zebra Consulting to offer a fresh perspective and…

This post first appeared in Feb ’17 on the Connecting for Nature blog, musing on social media identities and the personalities we project across different channels and accounts. It should resonate with anyone who runs both a personal and a business social media account or anyone who posts on behalf of a company, brand or project etc.

I’v re-blogged it as my contribution for #30DaysWild, day 29, because it deserves a second airing.



Connecting for Nature

Well the New Year is firmly underway now and I’ve been conscious for a while that I ought to have a bit of a health-check of my social media activities for the Connecting for Nature  biodiversity partnership. This became possible thanks to a generous offer from Scarborough-based Zebra Consulting to offer a fresh perspective and a listening ear. Zebra owner Rachel Sutcliffe helped deliver our Connecting For Nature Social Media Workshop last February, which featured on this blog a year ago.

5 Connecting for Nature:one of my online personas is @CFNature

Subsequent to this free ‘Social MOT’ as one might call it, I’ve been taking stock of my various social media outputs with a sense that I might be better organized this year. This blog post is the first of several, possibly three, (and can you sense how organized I am now?) that will explore some themes of my Social MOT….this first one is about our online personas…

Part 1 –…

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Turtle-y Brilliant

The one about the new Turtle Dove conservation project in North Yorkshire

Cropton Forest, where last spring I first got involved in the Turtle Dove volunteer surveys in the North Yorkshire Forest District.

30 days wild day 28

I nearly called this post Lovely Dove-ly, or possibly Talking Turtle. Readers of this blog who caught my Day 25 contribution, ‘Triffic Tripits’ may already have detected a propensity for corny word-play in my blog titles. (A Tripit is a birders’ contraction of Tree Pipit, if you were wondering.) Anyway, the purpose of this post is to share with you some news of a brilliant new conservation project to help Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire which got underway recently, made possible by a substantial ‘Our Heritage’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project is finessing its name as we speak. It was initially pitched to HLF as ‘Only Two Turtle Doves’ – An urgent quest to save our summer visitor’, paying homage to the bird’s usual, and for many people only, reference point the Twelve Days of Christmas carol, where two turtle doves receive mentions second only to the partridge in the pear tree.

I’ve spent some my day in the company of inspiring and enthusiastic partners of said Turtle Dove project, to which I am contributing some time and input ‘in-kind’ with my Scarborough Borough Council hat on. The North York Moors National Park, Howardian Hills AONB, Forestry Commission, RSPB and the N.E. Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre are also partners. We discussed progress since the project officer was appointed a few weeks ago.

I could wax lyrical about this project at length, but space is at a premium and much of it has been expressed better elsewhere, so instead I would like to recommend you read these recent blog posts about the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. I’m sure a dedicated website and social media outputs will fire up very soon so stay alert!

Here is an excellent summary blog, rich with useful links, on the North York Moors National Park blog, (which incidentally I recommend you follow), announcing the imminent project: 

This one (on the same NYMoors blog) is a first missive by the new-in-post Turtle Dove Project Officer, Richard Baines, who will be based at The Park offices for the three years of the conservation programme:

If your appetite is undimmed you can see my earlier announcement about the project on the Connecting for Nature blog and sense my excitement to be involved in a humble capacity as a steering group member:

Dawn at Dalby Forest listening for Turtle Doves on 25/6/17
Some dense hawthorn scrub where Turtle Doves might choose to nest
The North Yorkshire forests, like Dalby are proving to be Important for Turtle Doves.