Sunday, 22 February 2009

Another garden Development

Today, we took an evergreen out of one of the beds in the garden and planted two more Betula ermanii pendula. There is one Betula there already and this year, for the first time, it has a ceamy white stem. It is in the bed where the lilies grow from which I took my avatar.
There use to be an old cherry in this bed, with a stem that went round and round. Difficult to describe. And there was also an Ash which was self -own. One year when we were away, it pushed down the 2* listed wall because it had got too fat, so it was summarily removed. Things around there grew much better after that, but the cherry still inhibited things with its shade. About four years ago, it decided to turn up its toes - old age. I took the chance to change things more than somewhat. I increased the size of the bed and planted lots of shrub, the lilies and other bulbs. I had put in a conifer near the wall soon after I arrived and after the cherry went, it took off and would have achieved a good a good size, given half a chance.It is in the background of this snowy picture. Today, we took it out and there is no doubt in my mind that it should never have been there! I had bought 2 more Betula ermanii pendula afew days ago, and after removing the conifer, we planted on to the left and one very close to where the conifer was, As they develop, I plan to clear stuff round them and plant bulbs etc underneath. This is an example of a garden developing, as it should.
The top picture is rather dark I am afraid but it does show the bed without the conifer and if you look very hard you can see the two labels on the new trees, well to the left of the old one and a little to the right.
Below, you can see the 3 stakes of the 2 new and 1 old tree.
If I live long enough I will put up a picture of the patch after it has developed to how I imagine it will be!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Conversation with Dr Stuart Burgess

Yesterday, about 13 of us gathered in Wooler, in Northumberland, to discuss Rural problems and the ecumenical Church's place in the countryside with Dr Stuart Burgess.
Stuart is the Government's Rural Advocate and Chair of the Commission for Rural Communities. He reports directly to the Prime Minister and works closely with Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He is also a practicing Methodist with a deep faith.

The group consisted of The Archdeacon of Lindesfarne, The Diocesan Rural Officer (who is also our Vicar), 3 or 4 other vicars, a man who is working in the field of farming problems and deprivation, 2 Methodists, also with interests/responsibilities in the field, and an ex head teacher who is also involved with the Church, the wife of one of the Vicars and two or three others. Stupidly I did not note down everyone.

We had a wide ranging discussion about the difficulties facing Rural Communities. Stuart is leading an Upland Farming Inquiry, which he says must be wider than just hill farms and look into social and community problems. He is looking for evidence and during the 12 week consultation period is going to a number of parts of the country that come under the heading, including Northumberland. The official launch will be on February 11th and the Report will be out in the summer.

As we are going from a 3 tier Local Authority to 2 tier in May, so losing the layer nearest to the people i.e. the District Councils, (I am not counting the Parish councils here), there are a number of worries for everyone, not least the rural communities. The CAB is having funding problems as the Districts used to support them extensively but the new County is going to have severe financial difficulties itself. (Does Iceland ring any bells?) This means that the rapidly increasing numbers of people with financial concerns and debts, may not have that source of help. This led to a long discussion on how you define poverty and the hidden poor.

We moved on to important requirements for the Rural Communities.
The Rural Economy is very important for the future sustainability of the countryside. And that is dependent on good, fast Broadband to a large extent.
Affordable Rural Housing is essential to help prevent the flow of the younger population of villages to the urban environment. With affordable housing, you keep the younger people and also the shop, Post Office and First Schools. (In Northumberland we currently have 3 tier education, so the First Schools are much smaller than in 2 tier and therefore more vulnerable.)
There is often resistance to affordable houses. Most people agree that they are needed but "that site in the next village would be so much better" It is usually the incomers from the urban areas who have this reaction. It is Stuart's view that every village should have a dozen affordable houses and some system should be in place to prevent them being sold on into the ordinary market. Something such as a Community Trust can acquire the land and build the houses. When a person moves on, only the equity share can be taken out. Not sure what that means exactly but the result is that the house is there for another needy person. A Community Trust could also build a Care Home, to serve a smallish area so that the elderly can stay in touch with the community from which they come.

We ended with a discussion about the part the Church - of whatever denomination - should play in rural life. Stuart believes that all branches of the ecumenical Church should be getting their act together, stop worrying about the things like Women Bishops and sexual orientation (C of E) and restructuring (Methodists) and concentrating on what they can do for village communities. He believes that Church land should be used wherever possible for building affordable homes. As all other public buildings will disappear, if they have not done so already, the Churches, usually Anglican, should be used properly instead of once a week (or even once a month). They should become the focal point of the Settlement. They can contain a Post Office, a Shop, an Internet Café, and even a Doctor's Surgery. None of this will interfere with its original purpose of worship, but will make proper use of a building that is frequently listed.
We should also as congregations by trying to decide what contribution we can make to slowing climate change.

I am sure we talked about plenty more, but that is the extent of my notes. Tourism was another subject that was touched on as an important contributor to the rural economy, but bringing some conflict with rural dwellers/farmers.

It was a very worth-while day, spent with a highly intelligent man who was prepared to listen to everything we had to say, as well as share his views with us. And added to that, the drive to and from Wooler was through gorgeous Northumbrian countryside made even more beautiful by the snow.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Flowers out on February 1st

This morning I went out into a dark and gloomy garden to look for flowers that were blooming. It was necessary to do it today because there is heavy snow forcast which will put paid to some of these. The aconites above will press on under the snow, regardless and of course the somewhat late Christmas Cactus will be happy in the Conservatory.

There are a lot of snowdrops coming out, they too will survive happily under the snow, as will the Erica carnea.
The Garria elliptica catkins are lengthening well, though they never get as long as some Garria.

The Hebe is doing very well. I think it must be one of the really hardy ones, unlike the other, which was fine on New Year's Day, but has looked sadder and sadder since. Still there are these 2 flowers trying to come out.

The Helibore is trying hard and there are others that will be out soon. They too should not be bothered too much by the snow.
The Jasminum nudiflorum is a bit messy. It has not been a mass of colour - just odd ones coming out and the rest going over.

More snowdrops here, while the Mahonia
Bailii is really over but there are a few florets still out.

A bad picture of Viburnam bodnantense, sorry. It has been out since September, going off a bit if toooo cold but then coming back. It will go on till about May probably

And finally the Witch Hazel. It should not like this soil - on limestone - but lots of ericaceous compost and fequent talking to it telling it it is loved, seem to be working. It was planted last early winter, with a few flowers only. I am thrilled with it this time and the amount of growth too.