Gardenpinks' Blog

This, that and life!

Archive for the month “September, 2010”

Autumn already?!

Summer has flashed past for us. It is true what the old ‘uns say about how time seems to travel faster the older you get. As someone recently remarked when we were children there appeared to be years between each Christmas but now there are only minutes! 

A couple of days ago we had wall to wall grey cloud, heavy mist and drizzly rain. Darkness descended in the late afternoon; what a drear and miserable day it was. The next day we had lovely warm sunshine in the afternoon once the cloud cleared and then today rain. The only bright spots in this ‘November-ish’ type days are the reds of some of the tree and shrub leaves; the Virginia creeper is a beautiful red and their leaves glow like rubies when the sun catches them as it is going down. There was a beautiful sunset this evening, catching the undersides of the clouds and turning them and the sky various shades of pink, red, orange and gold. The last of the sun’s rays picked up the drops of rain suspended on the spiders webs so that each web had its very own miniature rainbow glistening on the strands. 

I have noticed that one shrub in particular is especially loved by the autumn spiders; the shrub, a variegated evergreen clipped into a flat-topped square, is festooned with small webs but they can only be seen in misty weather when the moisture clings to them and you just have to stop and admire the work of those spiders. 

During the spring and summer Rod takes photographs, as a record, of the many butterflies and day time moths that visit our garden. Our garden has been likened to an oasis surrounded by fields, although there are many beautiful wild flowers growing in the hill pasture above us. We believe that those wild flowers grow so abundantly in that particular hill pasture because the farmer doesn’t allow it to be overgrazed by the cattle so the butterflies are attracted to the pasture and then flit over the fences to see what is available in our garden. So when the weather is miserable it is nice to look at these photos to remind us of spring and summer and thought you might like to share these too.  

Elephant Hawk Moth


This occasional day-time moth, Elephant Hawk Moth, was caught resting on the leaves of a day lily. Such beautiful colours, it seems a shame that it is only seen mainly at night-time. It has a rather strange caterpillar that is amusing to watch. It is when you see the caterpillar that you realise where the ‘elephant’ part of the name comes from; it has a long trunk like head but when the caterpillar feels threatened it pulls its ‘trunk’ in to show off two ‘eyes’ to deter any predator. 

Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar - I'm watching you!


Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar - see my trunk???


Elephant Hawk moth caterpillars also have the disconcerting habit when spooked of swinging their heads back and forth not unlike a snake, now this has caused some discussion along the lines of “how did it know that snakes scare birds?” “Does the caterpillar/moth have intelligence to evolve imitating a snake?” Answers on a postcard please 🙂 

Comma on begonias


Beautiful Comma butterfly with its scalloped wings, its name is derived from the comma like markings on the underside of its wings. 

Red Admiral



The Red Admiral is known for its love of ivy flowers and fallen apples. These have been a bit cheeky this year as they have decided to get up close and personal with us when we have been out in the garden. Suddenly realise we have a Red Admiral perched on us somewhere! I suppose it is better than the even cheekier dragonfly that kept trying to land on Rod’s bald spot otherwise known as his landing pad for flies 🙂 



Brimstone butterflies are notoriously difficult to photograph with open wings, whenever it lands it immediately closes its wings to imitate a leaf. The male Brimstone is a beautiful primrose yellow colour with the female being much paler. The Brimstone is the first to show up in the early spring. 

The Gatekeeper butterfly is one of the many brown ‘jobbies’ that can be seen skimming over the grasses of fields and pasture land. This one has been snapped feeding on the many thistles. 



Small Tortoiseshell on sedum


The Small Tortoiseshell used to be so plentiful but several early springs followed by severe cold snaps depleted their numbers drastically.  This is one of the butterflies that uses our home to hibernate in together with the Peacock butterfly. Many creatures use our home to spend winter including hundreds of ladybirds (ladybugs in the US) and are, at this moment, congregating in our bedroom above the window. 

Clouded Yellow


These beautiful butterflies, Clouded Yellow, are infrequent visitors to our part of the world, they migrate to the UK having travelled huge distances over the ocean to reach our shores. Quite an amazing feat for something so delicate. 

The Scarlet Tiger Moth is another day time flying moth; a vivid glorious sight to see flying around. We think that the eggs of this moth overwinter as we see the caterpillars in late spring munching on various vegetation with the moths appearing in early summer. 

Scarlet Tiger Moth

I hope you have enjoyed seeing just a small selection of the moths and butterflies that come a-calling in our garden. 

I will leave you with one last one -once this one was extremely common and was called the Common Blue. It is a small creature but the colour is so beautiful and worth seeing; some years we don’t see any in the garden but then there will be a population explosion and there are so many it is difficult to count them. We feel so lucky to have these beautiful insects during the spring and summer and it always a delight to watch them. 

Common Blue

Mons Star Medal

I mentioned in my last post that when we started to construct flower beds we discovered a medal and thought you might like to know a bit more about this.

The medal is known as a Mons Star or 1914 Star and to quote:
“Authorized in April 1917 for award to those that served with the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces in France or Belgium on the establishment of a unit between 5th August 1914 and midnight on 22/23 November 1914. Naval personnel who served ashore were included. A bar was announced in 1919 for those who had actually came under fire between the appropriate dates.”

We got quite excited when we first found the medal and carefully washed it off and cleaned it up. On the back of the medal was inscribed the name, rank and number of the person it was awarded to; Rod vaguely remembered the family who lived here and so did some of the local people. In fact one or two recalled being at school with some of the children. Looking through the electoral roles we knew who had lived in our cottage and when, but tracing the family was another matter as the name was a very common one of Jones. For a few years we did nothing but put the medal in a safe place, always with the intention of finding the family and returning the medal to them.

Some years later I wrote a weekly column for our local newspaper about the events and happenings in our local village – I was even paid for this! One year around October time Rod and I were talking about the medal and thought that with Armistice Day coming up it would be a good time to do something so I wrote up a piece for my newspaper column, we didn’t give too much information away as we needed to have proof from whomever contacted us.
 Armistice Day is on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Remembrance Day is always held on the first Sunday closest to 11th November when poppies or poppy wreaths are laid on War Memorials across the country – these have inscribed on them all the names of those who died during the First and Second World Wars -this is then followed by 1 minute of silence to remember all who gave their lives in all the conflicts.
The local newspaper decided to run the whole story and a photographer was sent to take a photo of the medal and of me holding it – once they printed the story we were suddenly contacted by two other newspapers asking if they could run the story and wanting yet more photos and then we received a telephone call from the local television news programme! Fame at last 🙂 That caused quite a stir because not only did a reporter and cameraman arrive but also a mobile satellite van, the vehicle couldn’t get up our drive so they set up down in the farmyard whilst the reporter and cameraman did their thing here at home. We were filmed talking about the medal and showing it and pretending to dig in one of the flower beds. When that bit was wrapped up Rod had to drive the film down to the vehicle so they could ‘beam’ it to the studio for the 11 am news! Meanwhile reporter, cameraman and I went indoors for a much needed cup of tea – this stardom is exhausting you know.
Once Rod was back we all then went onto to do a variation on a theme filming for the 1pm and 6pm news slots.
After all this excitement it went very quiet; we had a few people get in touch but it wasn’t the right family. I was becoming quite down about the fact that the medal wasn’t going to go back to it’s rightful owners after all, when on Armistice Day at a minute before 11am I received a telephone call from a lady who said I think that medal belongs to my great grandfather – very spooky!  It was too.
It was arranged with the family that we would hand over the medal at the War Memorial; the eldest grand daughter and her son and daughter together with a brother and his daughter came and the newspapers and television people were alerted; the hand over was filmed in the pouring rain! The Jones family, Rod and I went to the nearest coffee house and talked about finding the medal and the time that the Jones family lived in our home.
Grandfather, his son, daughter-in-law and children all lived in our cottage back in the early 1940s and the medal became lost because one of the children had taken it to decorate the tree house – the remains of which were still in evidence when we bought the cottage. Apparently there is another medal missing but that hasn’t shown up yet!

Hope that hasn’t sent you all to sleep.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Home Sweet Home

I thought that a view of where we live might be of interest. First of all we live in the south west of the UK in a county called Gloucestershire. This map doesn’t actually show the county but does show the city of Gloucester to give you some idea of where we are – I have placed a nice red arrow to make life easier – Gloucester is about 18 miles away from us.

If you look very carefully at the tip of the map you can just make out the label for Isles of Scilly.

We live in a stone built cottage that was built in 1840 to house a quarryman and his family. The cottage is 600 feet above sea level on a north facing slope and is pretty secluded. The land above us was an opencast quarry for the limestone, this was used for house building, railway beds and foundations for road building.

The cottage hadn’t been lived in for over 30 years when we bought it and was pretty much derelict – holes where the doors and windows had been, very little in the way of interior partitions and holes in the roof. The surrounding 2 acres of land were waist high in rank growth of nettles, thistles and bramble bushes, to add insult to injury a local farmer’s cattle took shelter in the cottage so the floors were ankle deep in cow muck! At this time DH and I had been married only a year or so and he was contemplating buying this and us all living in it and I was just about ready to divorce him! DH had known the cottage since he was a lad having been born in the nearby village. However we did buy it, did remove all the cow manure and start work.

At the time we had 4 children, one a baby born
the year we bought the cottage.

35 years on and the cottage looks totally different! The creeper growing up the side of the house and obscuring some of the windows is Virginia creeper and it has been clipped back a little since this photo was taken, the creeper is just starting to turn a beautiful red now as the weather grows cooler.

All the flowerbeds that surround the cottage and vegetable garden were created from scratch by us and that cow manure came in very handy! While making one of the flower beds we found a First World War medal and were able to track the family down and return it to them with the help of several newspapers and television.

Talking of wars, something DH remembered from when he was little boy was the aeroplane that crashed in April 1943 in a nearby field carrying 7 Canadian crew, the aircraft was a Whitley bomber possibly on exercise. Sadly there were no survivors as the aircraft burst into flames. It has always been DH’s wish to let members of the crew’s family know where the accident happened.

Surrounding our cottage and garden is hill pasture and above that a wood containing many beech trees. Our horse, Cherry, lives out on the hillside all year round. She is now 33 years old and has been with us for 22 years; she was a rescue horse who had been very badly treated but has had a good life since her rescue. She is in retirement now and is a much cossetted old friend who soon lets us know when she wants apples and carrots. In her younger days she wouldn’t wait for us to give her an apple but would visit the garden and make her way to the large apple tree and help herself to the windfalls, what always amazed us was that she never trod on any of the flower beds but would make her way most carefully around the paths!

The type of views we enjoy here and the most beautiful sunsets.

But we can also have some extreme weather at times as in the winter of 2008 and again in 2009 as can be seen in these photos.

Winter 2008 and brrr was it cold. Neither of us is a cold weather person. Just hate that weather and all the difficulties it brings.

Grandson Liam who prefers a trike to skis any old day. This was taken in winter 2009 when the temperatures were down to -13 degrees C at times. I know that the temperature can fall way below that in some places but it is too darned cold for us!

Hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of ‘our place’.


A shorter post but just had to put these recipes up. Not sure whether some of these ingredients or similar will be available in the US. For instance perhaps Leslie or Nancy could tell me if maltesers are on sale over there? Maltesers are small balls of honeycombe coated with chocolate, very light to eat but most more-ish -yummm!

The first recipe came from the school where one of our twin daughters works it was then modified by the other twin daughter as I couldn’t get the original recipe to set very well. So here it is:

Chocolate Tiffin

500 grams (approx 18 ozs) crushed Digestive or Rich Tea biscuits
150 grams (approx 5.5 ozs) hard/block margarine or butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
300 grams (approx 10.5 ozs) chocolate – mix of dark and milk
Few raisins
Also can be added chopped nuts, cherries or sultanas

Melt chocolate, margarine and syrup together over a low heat until margarine has melted. Put crushed biscuits and raisins into a large bowl and pour melted mixture into the bowl. Stir well and then press into a well greased swiss roll tin and chill.
Melted chocolate can be spread over the top before chilling. Once set cut into bars and store in a plastic container in a cool place.

Malteser cake

85 grams (3 ozs) butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
170 grams (6ozs) crushed digestive biscuits
175 grams (7 ozs) maltesers -half crushed/half left whole

Melt butter and golden syrup gently in a pan.
Put cocoa powder, crushed biscuits and crushed maltesers into a bowl and add melted syrup and butter, combine well.
Allow to cool slightly and stir in whole maltesers.
Line a cake tin with cling film and pour in mixture. Press down carefully. Chill until set and cut into small wedges.

A little goes a long way!

The chocolate tiffin makes a nice gift when put into a lined container.
The beauty of these recipes is that there is no baking and they make ideal treats to go with a mug of tea or coffee.

This is Katie, our border collie, who also loves chocolate tiffin and malteser cake

Happy tasting y’all


Isles of Scilly holiday

At last I have made a start to this long neglected blog and it is all the fault of Leslie (message in a fold) – not Leslie’s fault that the blog is long neglected but her fault that I have taken it up again!!
Well I’ve got to blame someone and if you find all this boring then you know who to blame too 🙂

DH and I went to the Isles of Scilly for our holiday towards the end of August but before we could leave home and get to explore ‘our’ paradise many pages of instructions had to be written for our daughters who were looking after home, horse, dog and garden in our absence; housework had to be done – couldn’t leave it looking like a pigsty for our daughters now could I? – lists made to remind me what we needed to pack, etc, etc.

Soooooooooo all the above finally done and off we went.

The Isles of Scilly, for those not in the know, is approximately 28 miles off the tip of Cornwall and is a collection of around 200 islands, many of these islands are just rocks but loved by the many seabirds that nest and/or live amongst these islands.

The map shows a few of the islands including the five inhabited one of St Agnes, Bryher, Tresco, St Martin’s and, the largest one, St Mary’s on which we stayed.

Tresco is the home of the world famous Abbey Gardens filled with exotic trees, shrubs and plants.

In total across the five islands there is a resident population of approximately 2,000 people. The secondary school is on St Mary’s so the children from the other islands travel by boat to school! Beats catching the bus unless it is pouring with rain and the sea is boiling however some children board at the school Monday to Friday while others only board if the weather is too severe.

Visiting the Isles of Scilly is like journeying to a mediterrean area; it is warmer, the sea is blue and clear and the pace of life slower. There is a whiff of the exotic because plants and flowers that I can grow back home in Gloucestershire during the summer but have to protect during the winter grow all year round on Scilly; pass a roadside hedge or garden and geraniums (pelargoniums), agaves, agapanthus, amaryllis and gazanias are growing with gay abandon and make my efforts look rather pathetic! Don’t know the name of these ‘triffid’ like plant but it
towered over the roof top of the house in whose garden it grew. It was obviously a great source of nectar or pollen too as there many bees visiting it. Very strange!!

I know this sounds idyllic but the sun doesn’t always shine and the sea can be quite tempestuous at times!! For those in the UK catch the Island Parish series and there is footage of the gale force winds that can blow! But there is rarely snow and ice so that makes it idyllic as far as we are concerned. Last winter whilst we were dealing with -13 degree C cold, deep snow lying over ice the temperature was 7 degree C on St Mary’s.

The islands abound in history and one of our favourite walks and places to visit on St Mary’s is the Garrison. What we always forget is just how steep the walk up to the gates of the Garrison is and that walk soon sorts out the unfit! The Garrison surrounds the Star Castle; this is so called because the castle walls have been built in a star shape which made
attack by canon more difficult. The photo shows the Star Castle from the sea. The castle is now a luxury hotel and has some beautiful sea views.

Building began in Tudor times (16th Century)and was added to and strengthened many times over the years to defend not only the Scilly isles from attack by sea but also to give some defence to the mainland. This castle replaces a much older, medieval, castle above Old Town where there are still signs of the original jetty but little sign of the ruins of the original castle. With the construction of the Star Castle the focus for the inhabitants moved from the Old Town to Hugh Town where the quay and harbour now is.

Anyhoo after puffing and panting up the steep roadway entrance is via these gates, stopping to catch our breath we looked down over part of the town to the bay. Above the gates is a bell tower to sound the alarm.

The dwellings either side of the gates were presumably to house the guard but are now holiday lets with one or two of them as permanent residences.

This is the entrance to the Star Castle Hotel and for those staying here the management have minibuses to meet guests off the ferry or helicopter and transport them to the hotel – bet the army of the time wouldn’t have minded that!!

The land from the castle down to the garrison walls drops away so as we walk down to the walls there are superb views of the sea and across to Tresco, Bryher and Samson. At strategic places there are benches to sit upon and admire the view.

These walls are several feet thick with the later ones built from dressed granite, the earlier ones are rubble stone. The construction of the garrison walls must have kept the craftsmen of the time exceedingly busy; the thickness and height of the walls gave protection to the soldiery of the time but also proved robust against any returning canon fire. There are parts called Redans, these are triangular shaped sections of wall where canon could be so positioned as to give cross fire which must have terrified and confused any who enemies who were trying to creep through. The land falls away again beyond the walls and in places there are huge rocks, deterrents in themselves.

Think that is enough for now, further instalments to come so be warned!

Click on the photo below to be taken to my Picasa album to see the rest of the Garrison photos!

Garrison, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

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