31 May 2020


Moorland pool shrinking in the drought
Two or three weeks ago I headed out to walk the northern end of Stanage Edge. Stupidly, I left my faithful "Sony" bridge camera at the bottom of our stairs. Yesterday, I retraced my steps with camera in hand after parking close to Moscar Lodge on the A57.

As it happens, Saturday was a much better day for photography than on the last visit though I did not hear that plaintive cuckoo. The sky was as clear as crystal and Aegean blue. Meadow pipts bobbed about the bone dry heather and bog cotton as  two sheep in their woolly jumpers sought green sustenance under the sun's glare. Again I disturbed a couple of red grouse and a mountain hare.
Blobs of bog cotton dancing in the breeze
This time I was not alone. An Asian family snaked up the track to the rocks at Stanage End and a group of lithe rock climbers pitted their wits against Crows Chin - a mighty block of millstone grit that looks out over Moscar Moor towards Hordron Edge and the upper valley of The River Derwent.
"...lithe rock climbers pitted their wits against Crows Chin"
A young woman with a red face, desperately grasping a plastic water bottle, plodded after her errant boyfriend saying, "Are you sure it's this way Shane? Can't we have a sit down?" She was terribly overweight but at least she was out in the sunshine, getting some exercise. 
Ruin of a grouse shooters' cabin near Stanage End
For me it was four miles maximum. I saw water reflecting sunshine two hundred yards away and went over to photograph that moorland pool - now shrinking in the drought and I pottered about the remains of long disused stone quarries at Stanage End.

It felt good to be alive - my bootsteps transporting me smoothly over the rough landscape and my heart feeling light and carefree. Maybe one day - if I get to be a really old man - I will look back upon such rambles, smiling with fond remembrance: how it was in those bygone days.
Approaching Stanage End

30 May 2020


The peregrine chicks yesterday evening.
You can also see their perching father's shadow.
For several years, peregrine falcons have raised young on the tower of St George's Church in the centre of Sheffield. I have blogged about this before. Bird lovers from around the world can watch the nest activity from the comfort of their own homes. Go here.

This year there are two hungry chicks and they are gradually  losing their downy feathers, reaching the point where they will fledge and leave their lofty nest. Let us hope that they do not end up living on local grouse moors where covertly, landowners have encouraged the shooting of raptors that might affect the highly questionable "joy" of grouse shooting expeditions.

When I returned to Clint, high at the top of Shatton Lane, i finished reading "Yorkshire - A Lyrical History of England's Greatest County" by Richard K. Morris. Of course, being a proud Yorkshireman I had really looked forward to reading this book but I found it kind of fragmented. Good in parts but hard going in others.

Born on the same day as me but six years earlier, Morris is by profession and academic enquiry an archaeologist. That historical background is very evident in the book. By the way, it is worth noting that he is not a Yorkshireman but someone who has lived here most of his adult life having married a Yorkshirewoman to whom the book is dedicated.

Topics it swerves round include the Viking invasion, The City of Sheffield and the manufacturing of steel products, William Wilberforce the great anti-slavery campaigner, land ownership and grand houses, football, cricket, The Yorkshire Dales and popular music. It's as if Morris dipped his hand in the Yorkshire bran tub and came out with twelve parcels, leaving various others behind.

However, to give the book its credit it revealed to me many things I did not know about my home county and some passages were absorbing - including illuminating tales of wartime conscientious objectors and how the legends of Robin Hood are connected with the county's Barnsdale region between Doncaster and Pontefract. I also learnt about Inclesmoor to the south of The Humber - a large watery settlement of the middle ages of which there is virtually no trace left behind.

Yesterday, I planted out four healthy courgette plants and sowed three rows of seeds - white radishes, lollo rosso lettuce and purple sprouting broccoli. I gave everything a good soaking with my hose...no, not that one! After three months with very little rain, Yorkshire Water are already warning households to be sensible about water usage as our reservoirs are now only 70% full. Maybe we should all do a raindance.

Finally, R.I.P. George Floyd - cruelly killed by a policeman in Minneapolis on May 25th 2020. No wonder fires are now burning. The rage is always there - just waiting to be ignited.

29 May 2020


That is where I parked my South Korean buddy yesterday. High above The Hope Valley and the little village of Shatton. He was fuming when I got back to him for there was no shade and it was the hottest day of the year so far.

"Jesus God! You have been away two and a half hours," he said. "I thought my petrol tank was going to explode in this heat!"

"Chill out mate!" I replied, pulling a deckchair out of the boot (American: trunk). I drank cold water and read my book for an hour before driving Clint home. Nobody else passed by.
View to Win Hill from Shatton Lane
My walk had been circular and the landscape was very familiar. What is the opposite of virgin territory I wonder?

If you searched this blog you would certainly find previous references to Offerton Hall, Highlow Hall, Abney and Shatton Moor for I have walked there before. For the fashionistas out there, my walking outfit was similar to last week's but this time my shorts were khaki and my T-shirt was from Panama City Beach, Florida (2010). Is it really ten years since our daughter Frances was there for Spring Break?
Offerton Hall
The walk was quite lovely - and not so long - around five miles. Near Abney the sheep and fattening lambs were seeking shelter from the sunshine. Mothers panted in the lee of  walls and under the few shady trees large segments of flocks clustered together. It will be the same for the next few days. No sign of rain. I am glad I am not a sheep.
Highlow Hall
A shy lamb at Abney

28 May 2020


Where shall I walk today? I look at a map of my region and I have covered every inch of it within fifteen miles of this house. It is nice to walk in what I call "virgin territory" as I did on Monday when Clint delivered me to Laxton in Nottinghamshire.

That was an hour away and I don't wish to drive that sort of distance today so I guess I am going to have to cover old ground. Mind you, revisiting a circular walk I have completed in the past is never quite the same. The season, the light, the changes we see in nature -it's always subtly different from before.

Another sunny morning in Lockdown Land. These past three months - March, April and now May have all been exceptionally dry. The earth is crying out for rain.

On Monday I walked by two vast fields of broad beans. They were hanging on but hardly thriving in their sun-baked clay soil. In this country, most farmers rely upon rain from the sky to make their crops grow, We are not set up for artificial irrigation in the way that farms are in southern France or the Central Valley of California. Usually our problem is too much rainwater rather than too little.

Anyway, I need to get my act together now. The countryside is calling though I still don't know where I am going. I will tell you later where I went - assuming I make it home of course...

27 May 2020


Were crows ever scared of scarecrows? I doubt it. Crows are pretty intelligent creatures. Between themselves, they probably laugh or caw about pathetic dummies flapping about in farmers' fields. Besides, even if they were scared of them, an acre of farmland would require at least fifty scarecrows to make any difference.

Visitors seemed to like the keyworker scarecrow image I showed you yesterday, so here are two more members of Laxton's army of scarecrows:-
Finally, here's another real life scarecrow from Number 10 Downing Street. He is Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's senior adviser. This odious weasel broke the country's strict lockdown rules to travel 260 miles north one night at the end of March. He headed from London up to his parents' farm in County Durham with his wife and four year old son.
When spotlighted about this flagrant breach of the guidelines, what did he come up with? Weasel words of course. No apology. Just weasel words and what is more - the big blonde scarecrow - Johnson himself - has so far stood by Cummings in spite of a tsunami of criticism that has seen Johnson's popularity plunge like a lift in The Shard.

Ironically, Cummings is responsible for the government's pandemic slogans - "STAY HOME/ PROTECT THE NHS/ SAVE LIVES" and later "STAY ALERT/CONTROL THE VIRUS/ SAVE LIVES". And yet he could not follow his own instructions. The reek of hypocrisy is very disgusting.

26 May 2020


Abandoned Moat Farm  in Edgmanton
Laxton is a village in Nottinghamshire. Its main claim to fame is that it is the only village in England that still operates the medieval "open field system" of agriculture.

I was there yesterday, still making a fashion statement, but this time my top was an authentic New York City Fire Department (NYFD) grey T-shirt, By the way, thinking about the good 'ol USA, it is generally believed that places there called Lexington can thank Laxton for their name.

What a joy it was to be out there in the May sunshine, plodding along rarely trodden public footpaths that took me to three more villages: Edgmanton, Weston and Moorhouse. I saw many things and creatures too: cattle and sheep, a badger and two hares that did not hang around long enough for me to get my camera out, a peacock, partridges, a fox, white geese with goslings and a barking brown dog that came out to "greet" me at Ladywood Farm.
Laxton Church (Grade I listed) and dedicated to  St Michael the Archangel
Encountering unleashed dogs is one of the main perils of country walking. You approach farms with trepidation - aware that at any moment a dog may appear to  drive you from its territory. Usually, they are chained up or in  cages but once in a while there are scary meetings with dogs that are allowed to run free - even though the landowner is well aware that a public right of way passes through their property. As in urban areas, there are irresponsible dog owners out in the countryside too. Fortunately, I have never been bitten but I have had to say "Good boy!" on many occasions when I really meant "Back off Satan!"
Not dandelion but hawkweed in West Field, Laxton
I moved over the landscape like a beetle. In twelve miles I didn't see another rambler. Several sections of path were untrodden or badly signed. So different from The Peak District in that regard. 

In lovely Edgmanton, anxious mothers called their children indoors as the stranger in the NYFD T-shirt plodded by. But soon he was gone - beetling along past the remains of ancient fish ponds and hedgerows with history. No stone wall field boundaries out there.
Approaching the village of Weston and the spire of  All Saints Church
When I got back to Clint it was after five o'clock.

"Come on! Get your shoes on!" he snapped. "I'm sick of waiting here. One of those mucky tractors was eyeing me up earlier on. Let's get back to Sheffield tout suite!"
Key worker scarecrow competition in Laxton. That's what COVID does to your head.

24 May 2020


On Sunday May 10th, the British government changed its public coronavirus slogan from "Stay Home/Protect the NHS/ Save Lives" to "Stay Alert/Control The Virus/Save Lives". Generally, this change has been met with puzzlement and has been criticised for being far too vague. 

The instruction  to "Stay Alert" has been echoing in my head for two weeks now. I thought of small mammals in the long grass, sailors in crows' nests and soldiers looking through night vision binoculars at the 38th parallel in Korea. But this was the poem I came up with...

Stay Alert

Like beauty danger lurks
A  highwayman
Ready to disarm you
To rob you of your breath.
Look left, look right,
Check your way is clear
For it may be very near
Skulking in the shadows
Of unease
Concealed by trembling trees
Or waiting round the bend
Just up ahead
With the unsung dead.
Said the T-shirt
Stay Alert
Choose vigilance
To secure a
Stay of execution
- Your contribution
To saving lives.

23 May 2020


Nobody likes a braggart - trumpet blowing boasters who habitually show off  and tell the world of their remarkable achievements. Both Jair Bolsonaro  and the loathsome New York City rapper D.J.Trump ought to know that. And now I am joining them.

As far as I know neither Bolsonaro nor D.J.Trump contribute to the British Geograph website so neither of those towering world statesmen have known the joy of waking up on a Saturday morning to find that one of their previous images has been chosen as "Picture of the Day":-
Similarly, neither of them will have experienced the rosy glow of satisfaction that comes when one of your images has been chosen from an extensive nominations list as the "Picture of the Week". That happened to me three weeks ago with this image taken on a valley side by Dale Dike Reservoir:-
The Guardian of the Path
There are other things I could brag about - like the day I met The Queen Mother, winning the Holderness Schools fifty yard sack race in 1964, meeting Mick Ronson (David Bowie's guitar man) or being awarded the school art prize at Beverley Grammar School in 1972.  Blah-blah-blah! But nobody likes a boasting braggart as I said before, so I had best shut up now.

22 May 2020


Male and female common cuckoo
A couple of weeks ago I plodded along Stanage Edge from the north. It was a lovely day, calm and peaceful with hardly a breath of wind. 

At High Neb, I looked down upon the small moorland plantation at Dennis Knoll and I became as still and quiet  as the day itself. That is when I heard the unmistakable sound of a male common cuckoo calling for a mate. He would have flown to us all the way from Africa like countless generations before him.

His repeated cuckooing song rang out like music from distant history, echoing insistently over the heather. I pictured him sitting bright-eyed upon a perch in the little plantation following his instincts without question, patiently calling. 

Click on the arrow to hear the sound of the male European cuckoo.

As Wikipedia explains, "The common cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite; it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. At the appropriate moment, the hen cuckoo flies down to the host's nest, pushes one egg out of the nest, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. A female may visit up to 50 nests during a breeding season. Common cuckoos first breed at the age of two years."

Linked to this well-known habit there are two other amazing things to note about the cuckoo. It is capable of mimicking the songs of other birds for the purposes of distraction and the female is capable of producing eggs of different sizes, shapes and colours that  mimic the host bird's eggs.

Amazing, huh?

21 May 2020


Canada geese in Furnace Pond
Yesterday - the hottest day of the year in northern England - I made a fashion statement. Picture this my friends:- 
  • Sun-bleached souvenir fishing hat labelled "Malta" on my head
  • Azure England rugby T-shirt complete with red rose
  • Faded blue shorts kept up with an old leather belt (brown)
  • White sports socks
  • Comfortable walking boots from Decathlon
  • On my back - the blue now sun-faded "Converse" rucksack I bought in Bangkok to replace the one that was stolen in 2013
Surely I should have been swinging down a cat walk at the Paris fashion show but instead I was in the countryside between the city of Derby and the M1 motorway. Somewhere I had never walked before.

To add to my modish appearance, I added sun cream to my exposed flesh. Those muscular tree trunks I call legs had not seen sunlight since Shirley and I were in Croatia last September.

And then I was off, leaving Clint by an old water pump in the village of Stanton-by-Dale. it was eleven thirty when the walk started and five fifteen when it finished.
Victorian water pump in Stanton by Dale
What a beautiful day for walking! I had my camera and more importantly I had my health. A plodding machine, seeing what I could see. Those things included the old hermit cave south of Dale Abbey, Canada geese and goslings in Furnace Pond, the villages of Ockbrook, Dale Abbey and Risley and several farms. Twice I got lost but didn't panic, just kept on plodding.

The soil down there was the colour of rust. I noticed a sign on a farm gate warning "Hare coursers" and "poachers" that if apprehended they would be liable to heavy fines and imprisonment. Fortunately neither activity appeals to me, I'm more of a fashion guru - as explained earlier.
Tree surgeon by Moor Lane, Dale Abbey
The Hermitage at Stanton by Dale
"The hermit in question was a local baker from Derby named Cornelius, who one day had a dream that the Virgin Mary told him to go to Depedale to live a life of solitary prayer. As the story goes, he obeyed the vision despite not even knowing where Depedale was at the time. Upon his arrival, he found nothing but a marshland in the valley bottom with steep sandstone banks on the southern side. There, he excavated a home in one of these sandstone banks and began his worship in seclusion."
Remains of the  Premonstratensian abbey at Dale Abbey
(where Alan-a-Dale of Robin Hood fame allegedly hailed from)
St Michael's Church and war memorial - Stanton-by-Dale

20 May 2020


Yesterday afternoon, the neighbours on both sides were making too much noise for my liking. When I am reading books, I require silence so that I can fully concentrate.

Consequently, I had to wake Clint from his slumbers and drive out of the city - up to Ringinglow - just past the alpaca farm. I sat  at one of the two wooden picnic benches by Quicksaw Plantation and read two more chapters of "Yorkshire - A Lyrical History". The going is not easy. Plenty of historical facts and theories to take on board

Then I followed a mysterious path into the woodland. I had never ventured along it before. After a hundred yards, the path gave way to tangled undergrowth and the pathways of  badgers and rabbits. I came across an ancient badgers' sett though I saw no scat to indicate that badgers were sleeping underground but their well-trodden paths gave me hope. Perhaps they heard my boots on their ceiling.

Gradually,  further progress through the dense woodland became nigh on impossible without a machete.  And the ground dropped away steeply to my left - down into the valley of The River Porter. For once I did the sensible thing and turned back.

In a glade by a wild digitalis plant I came across a one-eared and one-eyed rabbit. How he came to be there I have no idea. See the top picture.

When I finally got back to the little car park on the edge of the woods, somebody called over to me from one of the picnic tables. It was my mate Mike and a friend of his called Danny - who I  have conversed with on several occasions. They were having a couple of beers and catching up so I joined them for half an hour. All being well, the three of us will meet up in the same place at the same time next week. I wonder if there are YouTube instructional videos that might help me to improve my small talk.
Cattle seen across Porter Clough

19 May 2020


Platitude - a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.

I don't know about you but I very much dislike those motivational or inspirational posters that attempt to say something deep and meaningful in a small number of words - usually with a linked photo illustration. The messages tend to be trite and cliched, presumptuously implying that worthwhile truths can be conveyed to us in that bland, over-simplistic manner.
To prove the point I just made my own inspirational poster using a photo I took on nearby Fulwood Lane  in 2017. It took me two minutes to create this poster and about ten seconds to come up with the wording - "Wise People  - Look over walls and dream". What utter nonsense! As far as I am concerned, it  means nothing and yet I firmly believe that there are people out there who would display that poster on their walls and nod their heads sagaciously - as if it really meant something. It doesn't.  It's bullshit...though of course that's not a bull, it's a cow!

18 May 2020


The powers that be are trying to start up football again.  Over the weekend, German Bundesliga  matches were played in empty stadiums. Here in England there is talk that we might follow suit in the next three or four weeks.

In South Korea, these "ghost games" have been happening for a couple of weeks. One club - Seoul F.C. had the bright idea of trying to manufacture a fake crowd so that their stadium would not appear totally bereft of supporters.

And now Seoul F.C. have been criticised for using sex dolls (see picture above).  In their defence, the club has protested that they are not sex dolls at all - they are "premium mannequins". Yeah -right!

If I had a "premium mannequin" I would call her Julie and keep her in my wardrobe behind the old suits that I never wear any more. If pubs ever re-open I would take Julie down to our local and order her a bacardi and coke before later heading home to watch "Match of the Day" together.

Just like Princess Diana, my wife might remark, "There's three of us in this marriage" before bursting Julie with a knitting needle. 

I would bury her in the garden next to the young bullfinch I buried a couple of weeks ago. By the way, thanks to Mr Walter Baxter in Galashiels, Scotland for correctly identifying that bird. If you remember I had thought that it was a female chaffinch but Walter knows more about birds than I do - as the  hotly pursued women of Galashiels will surely attest.

17 May 2020


This country's "Poet Laureate" - appointed by The Queen is of course a Yorkshireman. He's called Simon Armitage and he is from the village of Marsden near Huddersfield. Reflecting upon the COVID 19 lockdown he has recently written a poem for our times called unsurprisingly perhaps - "Lockdown". In this poem there are echoes of previous lockdowns - one in "The Plague Village" of Eyam in Derbyshire that I know very well and another way back in legendary times in The Himalayas. 

At the parish boundaries of Eyam you can still see special stones with recesses in them where quarantined villagers left coins in vinegar to pay for deliveries of food from neighbouring communities. The Plague arrived in Eyam in a roll of a cloth from London. Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre were young lovers separated by that particular lockdown back in 1665.

Here's the poem:-


And I couldn’t escape the waking dream of infected fleas 
in the warp and weft of soggy cloth by the tailor’s hearth 

in ye olde Eyam. 
Then couldn’t un-see 

the Boundary Stone, 
that cock-eyed dice with its six dark holes, 

thimbles brimming with 
vinegar wine purging the plagued coins.
Which brought to mind the sorry story 
of Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre, 

star-crossed lovers on either side 
of the quarantine line 

whose wordless courtship spanned the river
till she came no longer. 

But slept again, 
and dreamt this time 

of the exiled yaksha sending word 
to his lost wife on a passing cloud, 

a cloud that followed an earthly map
of camel trails and cattle tracks, 

streams like necklaces, 
fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants, 

embroidered bedspreads 
of meadows and hedges, 

bamboo forests and snow-hatted peaks, 
waterfalls, creeks,

the hieroglyphs of wide-winged cranes 
and the glistening lotus flower after rain, 

the air hypnotically 
see-through, rare, 

the journey a ponderous one at times, 
long and slow but necessarily so.

16 May 2020


Last Sunday, Britain's  prime minister spoke to the nation via television. In a rather vague manner and  clearly without thorough consultations he was seeking to slacken the stranglehold of our lockdown. Suddenly the previous slogan "Stay Home/ Protect the N.H.S./ Save Lives" had morphed into something different: "Stay Alert/ Control The Virus/ Save Lives".

Notice how the initial slogan had red edging - red for stop but the new official slogan has green edging - green for go. By the way, I chuckled the other day when someone said that the labelling looked rather like safety stickers on the back of a heavy good vehicle.

Linked to this attempt to slacken the leash, the public have been advised that as from Wednesday of this week they can travel as far as they want to for exercise. That's the reason why I felt completely at liberty to drive forty miles into the heart of Lincolnshire on Thursday morning. Under the changed rules, I wasn't doing anything wrong.

The instruction "Stay Alert" seems rather vague to most people. I guess that brown hares know what it means to "stay alert". Their eyesight, their radar ears, their sensitive noses and their athletic legs are all connected with staying "alert". Evolution has told them that if they don't "stay alert" they are likely to die.

I shared my best brown hare photograph yesterday but for your interest here are two more I snapped in that magical minute by Catchwater Drain between Redbourne and Waddingham. I guess I only spotted the hare because I was following government advice - staying alert:-

15 May 2020


Pea field and sky in Lincolnshire
The wise and all-seeing British government, led by "The Science", has loosened the shackles of the lockdown. One of the things they have decided is that citizens can now travel as far as they wish to to take exercise. There's no sleeping away from home but you may go as far as you want.

The logic behind this change defeats me but I am not complaining. The new rule kicked in on Wednesday so yesterday I travelled quite far in order to undertake a ten mile walk in the Lincolnshire countryside.

Clint carried me along the M18 motorway, thence the M180 motorway which we left at Junction 4. Then we headed a few miles down the old Roman road - Ermine Street until I  saw the sign for Redbourne.
"The Red Lion" and the old fire station in Redbourne
The village was just as I had seen it in Google Streetview and now I was there - inside Google Streetview! I left Clint with some ducks under sycamore shade before my May ramble began.

"I hope they don't crap on me!" grumbled Clint.

What a delightful village Redbourne is! A variety of houses, the site of an old castle, a grand manor house, a village pond and a coaching inn called "The Red Lion". The archetypal English village. No litter, no graffiti, neatly trimmed verges, a carved village sign and there was even a freshly painted red telephone kiosk - though it contained no telephone.
Below a rookery in Redbourne
My walk was mostly across agricultural land, criss-crossed with drainage channels. In a vast field of sprouting peas I doubt that there was a single weed. That's how arable farming is these days. Led by "The Science" all threats to the crop are eliminated. How I would have loved to walk across that landscape a hundred years ago. Nature would have worn a very different coat.

Near the imaginatively named Catchwater Drain I stopped suddenly in my tracks. There ahead was  a wild creature - a beautiful brown hare. Wishing to shoot it, I reached slowly for my gun camera. A minute later it was not me who spooked him/her - it was a pair of ducks rising from the drain. It cannot be easy for hares to survive in such territory. It was a rare privilege to watch this wonderful animal.
Halfway through the walk, I reached another charming village - Waddingham. There was an inviting bench by the sunny south wall of  St Mary and St Peter's Church. I sat there and ate a bag of cheeseburger flavoured crisps and a banana - washed down with Sheffield water from my steel flask. I felt contented in a zen way as I frequently do when out walking in the countryside.
St Mary and St Peter's Church, Waddingham
Four and a half hours after leaving Clint with the ducks, I was back in Redbourne and soon we were ready to drive home - taking a short detour to two other Lincolnshire villages - Hibaldstow and Scawby before hitting the M180 motorway again:- 
Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way

14 May 2020


It was as if it happened in a different era of human history - our daughter's wedding. But it was just last August -  the 24th to be precise. There's Frances and Stew outside "The Cathedral of The Peak" in Tideswell just after the ceremony. To Frances's right are her six bridesmaids and to Stewart's left his six groomsmen -  including our Ian at the very end.

You couldn't have wished for better weather and you couldn't have wished for a happier wedding. It was all before the virus in a time of innocence. In those days you didn't need to shrink away from strangers or friends. You could dream and make plans. If you were so inclined you could hug. You didn't have to note the statistics of death and infection as days drifted by.  You didn't need to make masks nor wonder if you would ever travel again - to see the wonderful world or simply to enjoy nice holidays. That's how it was before.

And here are two phone pictures taken at roughly the same time in different places before cars transported everybody to the church. When will we see such happiness again? When will we know such innocence?

13 May 2020


 As they say - third time lucky!

At the end of March, I tried to source some fresh courgette seeds (American: zucchini). All garden centres were in lockdown and in the supermarkets I managed to visit all packets of vegetable  seeds had been sold. Fortunately I had two old packets with a few remaining seeds inside from previous years.

Both packs were still "in date" so theoretically germination should have been assured. After ten days nothing had stirred in my first batch. I left six little plant pots by a sunny upstairs window. In normal years the natural process would have taken place within a week or so but not this time.

I abandoned the first batch and tried a second with seeds from a different packet. Ten days later nothing had stirred. Not one little green shoot.

Nine days ago after D.I.Y. stores had been allowed to re-open I managed to locate fresh courgette seeds in the "Homebase" branch on Chesterfield Road. I decided to buy the most expensive "hybrid" seeds. I swear these were  the most expensive seeds I have ever bought at around 35 pence each! Quite incredible really.

However, last Saturday I noticed that one of the fresh seeds was stirring in its plant pot. And by yesterday all six seeds had germinated nicely. As some chilly nights have been predicted this month, my third batch of courgette seeds should not be too late. By the end of this month I hope and expect I'll have six sturdy seedlings  to plant out.  

Courgettes have always been successful in our garden. I have been growing them for the past thirty years. This year, for the first time, I plan to harvest and dry dozens of  courgette seeds after allowing one of the late fruits to turn into a marrow. Can life get any more exciting than that?

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