Fun Frogs

Our froggy money-box has a new purpose.

There’s a new Facebook Group for our street. A lovely neighbour set it up to help us help each other during the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s good to keep connected. People have been sharing what they’ve been doing and lots of useful information and offers of support are being posted. We’ve also been sharing jokes (good, clean ones of course) – how lovely it is to be able to make each other laugh, especially while we are all going through this.

There are several young families here – there have been some brilliant ideas to keep the children busy. With no school and no playing out with friends, it can’t be easy for the children and their parents, trying to home-school and curb the boredom along with everything else. There have been offers of help with emailed activity sheets from retired teachers, gifts of toys and some really creative ideas. I think the “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” idea has happened in a lot of places but ours was amazing – children out for daily exercise counted at least 50 teddy bears that our residents had placed in windows visible from the street, following the request on the Facebook Group. It’s amazing how many people still have their childhood teddies – we had a 61-year-old bear in one house (so we now know how old it’s owner is- there may have been older ones, but no-one was admitting to that! How could we follow such a great effort?

The next suggestion (chosen from a shortlist of creatures) was a little more challenging. If most people own a teddy bear (whatever their age) you can’t say the same about frogs! Cuddly frogs are rather unusual, so local residents have had to be more creative. Many have kindly given me permission to share photos of their froggy labours!

We didn’t have to think too hard about our frog as K owns a ceramic money box (see title photo) that is nearly as old as his ancient bear. We sat our froggy on an upturned vase so he could be seen more easily by passing frog-hunters.

It was great fun to go out and look at the other frogs.

This handsome chap was all dressed up and fully accessorised for a spot of fishing

Some were quite small.

Others made a bigger display. Isn’t this one brilliant! It even has a pond and lily pads.

It’s provided the children with some drawing and colouring activities too, some in windows…..

…some outside.

This one looked familiar. It took ages to realise that I used to have it as a screensaver.

…..and there were many more – here’s a few.

The next project is already taking shape after hearing about the Scarecrow at Home Challenge. Other villages in the area are taking part in this too. Several scarecrows have already appeared in some of our gardens and, thinking ahead, there’s also an offer of compost and seed for anyone here who wants to grow the biggest sunflower. With so many fantastic ideas there’s never a dull moment here!

Are you taking part in any “together at home” activities with your neighbours?

Wildflower Walks

As we are not making any unnecessary car journeys our walks (or in my case trips on a little mobility scooter) are close to home.We are fortunate to live in a village close to open countryside and some great views. As I’ve been doing the route for a while now, I’ve become really aware of the seasonal changes – the lambs are growing bigger and every day I see different wildflowers coming into bloom.

I’ve always been a keen wildlife watcher, and wildflowers are easy in some ways (they don’t run or fly away!). I have a reasonable knowledge of most of the common species, although some plant families have loads of very similar ones that are hard to tell apart. I thought I would create a photographic record of the flowering wild plants I see on my walks. That would challenge me to get better at identifying the trickier ones. I could add to the list as more species come into flower…..it could even become a regular “wildflower of the week” feature on the blog.

I decided to limit the list to the verges and hedgerows along a particular stretch of the route as you leave the village – so I counted 18 species in flower. Some, like the Lesser Celandine have been out for ages, others, like the last three I only noticed in flower today. I can see different plants’ leaves shooting up and some flower buds are developing so I should be able to keep adding to the list for a while.

I was able to identify most of these from memory but used a magnifier and a field guide to help with a few. I certainly don’t profess to be an expert, so if I got any wrong – please let me know.Some of the photos are better than others, so I may edit the post if I take a if I find a better specimen and/or take a better photograph – hopefully my photography skills will improve too.

I’m quite pleased with the idea of repurposing my walks into a sort of botanical survey. I also love the way that wildflowers are an integral part of folklore – many have several names, some often specific to an area, that may give a clue to past uses, for example as medicinal or culinary herbs or to dye cloth. One of my favourite country names is sometimes used for the Moschatel – this insignificant little plant bears five tiny green flowers at the top of the stem, one at each side and one on top (as if they were on five faces of a cube) – it’s also known a Town Hall Clocks.

Moschatel, also known as Town Hall Clocks

I wonder what will be the next wildflower of the week?

Enjoying the Spring Sunshine

I’ve been struggling with the blog recently. Regular blog subjects, like visiting the beach, eating scones at local cafes and taking part in knit and natter groups have all stopped. I threw myself into some knitting and craft projects, but it didn’t seem the same. I’m not a walker – I use a disability scooter to get about, and have other health issues so I hadn’t been leaving the house. This week I reached the point when it was time to pull myself together and, as the weather was so good, I got the scooter out and joined K on a couple of walks with Buddy, the Labrador. I’m so glad I did.

The little Amelanchier tree in the front garden has finally come in to flower and is looking stunning

As we walked through the village I saw a few rainbows, painted by children and stuck in windows.

There’s also this sign, which has been placed at the entrance to the little garden of remembrance, which is known as Green Hut Corner.

It’s a lovely gesture – the village has applauded loudly for NHS staff and other key workers every Thursday night – there were even fireworks last week!

I enjoyed seeing all the spring flowers. This garden wall was festooned with aubretia.

Here in Shilbottle, the grass verges are full of daffodils in Spring. Until now I hadn’t noticed that some hyacinths had been planted with them in one spot. I wondered if they had originally been indoor ones that someone had planted out after they finished flowering. They had a beautiful fragrance that we could smell as we went past.

There’s a really quiet lane that winds through farmland – we can let Buddy off his lead there. He’s not bad at avoiding other dogs and people if you tell him to “leave” . We met several people out for their daily exercise or walking dogs but all were cheerfully observing distance guidelines. We are lucky to live here where there is the space to get out safely.

One of my favourite spots on this route is a by a gate at the top of a bank- there’s a wonderful view towards the sea from here. It was very hazy on one of my walks this week but yesterday was beautifully clear.

It was good to see the wildflowers in bloom as well as the garden plants. These primroses are one of my favourite signs of spring.

The blackthorn is also in full bloom. We hope that the sloe berries this autumn are as profuse as the flowers – we always make a batch of sloe gin if we can pick sloes. Some years, if there are late frosts that stop the fruit forming, there are none to be found.

Of course the newborn lambs are one of the signs of spring we love to see and there were plenty in the fields.

We doubled back and came back up the hill, stopping for a little while to take in that view again. Buddy seemed to be glad of the break. I had forgotten just how important it is to get our in the fresh air and I felt so much better for it.