Here are a few of the scary characters I’ve snapped at Fishponds over the summer.
There’s a huge oak tree in the middle of the garden at Fishponds. I think it is truly magnificent, and it has provided us with much needed shade throughout this fabulous summer. It is now however, providing us with the endless task of raking leaves and acorns. The number of acorns is astonishing, and watching “Countryfile” at the weekend it seems that this year the trees are providing a bumper crop for the squirrels and birds. I can concur.
It’s a job that needs doing but thankfully one that I quite enjoy. As I was filling the fifth or sixth wheelbarrow last weekend I really felt that these wonderful acorns were wasted in the compost bin and my mind started wandering to all those imaginary little people that might make use of an acorn cup or an oak leaf.
I’ve always liked fairies. Not many people know that, but those who were at our wedding might remember the Brian Froud illustrations we had on the invitations. As a child I also loved Jill Barklem’s “Brambley Hedge” books. The detail in the illustrations is wonderful and provided me with many hours of entertainment as I studied every millimetre of those pictures. Her interest in natural history and rural customs is evident and this has stuck with me.
So it’s been unsurprising that as we’ve explored the land at Fishponds I’ve often noticed little mossy spots, or interesting tree trunks and have remarked to Maddie and Saffie that the fairies or mice must live there. As we’ve been toadstool spotting, we’ve noticed fairy rings, fuelling their (and my own) imagination even more.
Inspired by the fruits of our oak tree, I collected up a bucket of acorns. I also foraged some pinecones, beech nut cases, sycamore seeds, honesty seed heads and a few other twigs and leaves. With the help of my hot glue gun, and a little inspiration from the internet, I let my imagination run wild and created a family of autumn fairies.
I then set about hiding them on a wonderful, twisted, mossy tree trunk in the corner of one of the fields. It looked truly enchanted with it’s new inhabitants. I let Maddie in on the secret and together we enticed Saffron out to hunt for fairies. As you can imagine, she squealed with delight when she saw them and insisted on bringing a couple back to the house with her.
I’m sure there were more productive things I could’ve been doing with my time. Do we really need acorn fairies when I have huge piles of both ironing and filing? Judging by Saffie’s reaction, yes we do!
I would be lying if I said I haven’t been a little put out by Maddie’s new found ornithological knowledge. Until we moved to Fishponds she was a pretty amateur twitcher. She could recognise a magpie and a jay, and could tell a blue tit from a great tit at a push. But since we’ve been here her expertise has soared. If she isn’t reading one of her many books about birds, then she’s flicking through a magazine, browsing the internet or checking the “Birds of Britain” app on her ipod. And rather than being the font of all ornithological knowledge, I’m now constantly astounded by the fascinating snippets of information she bombards me with.
So I’m giving up on birds and trying my hand at fungi instead. Over the past month or so I’ve been snapping all the different toadstools and fungi I’ve seen out in the fields. And today I happened across a Collins Nature Guide to the Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and Europe while out shopping. I was all set to become a master of the mushroom world. But it’s actually quite difficult to identify toadstools, even with a book designed for “easy identification.” It transpires that I need to inspect the gills, lift them out of the ground and compare several at a time, not just snap arty photos. From now on I will be a bit more conscientious and take more notice of the individual characteristics of my mushrooms, not just check I’m in focus. I certainly don’t feel confident enough in my new found skills to try eating those marked as edible.
So I’m going to share some of my snaps with you, along with my amateur conclusions. Please feel free to correct me if needed, as I’m sure it won’t be long before Maddie discovers my new book, highlights my mistakes and fills me in on the facts I’ve missed.
I know it’s another month until Bonfire night., but this afternoon we got smokey down in the field. David the Gardener had burnt a cracking bonfire on Thursday and while I was down at the compost bins today, I wandered over to the ashy remains and realised it was still smouldering. I think there’s a small pyromaniac lurking in all of us, and it didn’t take much prodding with a stick, and stoking with a few fallen leaves to get it going again. And it didn’t take long for the girls to get involved too. They found a couple of rakes and eagerly filled the wheelbarrow with fallen oak leaves and encouraged me to keep the flames going. There’s a hypnotic quality to smoke – we were all transfixed and spent a couple of hours down there, watching the smoke drift across the valley. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon; embracing the onset of autumn, and clearing up the garden at the same time. And I couldn’t help myself. I popped back down there at dusk, purely to make sure it was dying down, but gathered just a few more leaves and got those flames blazing one last time. I’m now looking forward to the colder days so I can practise my firestarting skills on the log burner in the living room.