Thursday, 10 August 2017

Roskhill's Secret Garden

It's not really secret at all of course...

The garden ground here at Roskhill is divided into two separate areas. One area is in front of, and to the side of, the Barn itself. The other area lies across the old township road, and is accessed by a pedestrian gate. It is this second part that I generally refer to it as 'The Allotment'. However, the actual area of land in this part of the garden is considerably larger than just the vegetable beds, and over the last few years I have gradually reclaimed a fairly sizeable piece of ground from the wild wilderness that was there before. I've also planted several trees along the top of the river gorge. These trees are mostly 'rescues' that had self-seeded in silly places, and none is taller than me... yet.  I have two larches, two scots pines, two spruce, an oak (grown from an acorn and still only about a foot tall, even though it is now five years old) and a mountain ash.

So - this is my 'Secret Garden', as no-one ever goes there - only me and just occasionally Sue. I really like the jumble of natural vegetation that borders the area I have cleared. Wild flowers flourish. The birds and insects love it.

So do I!

The yellow flowers are ragwort. I won't let them shed seed!

In the middle foreground is a cotoneaster that came to me as a 6 inch tall single spike.
It clearly likes its home next to our septic tank - and the bees love its flowers!

Looking into the Secret Garden over the allotment.
Just right of centre is a cherry tree - it does produce cherries which we leave for the birds.
Left of centre is the foliage of Jerusalem Artichoke -
the roots are like knobby potatoes, and great in soup or when mashed with swede.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Roskhill Barn Gate

These days, the garden of the Barn is not properly fenced, though it may have been at one time. There is a tumbled stone wall along the longest side, and some slightly tired stockproof fencing at the other boundaries. This is not really a problem to us - the occasional wandering sheep may get in, but we like our uninterrupted views.  However, at the entrance to our garden and driveway, there is a very elderly iron gate. When we first came here, it was possible to open and close this gate. Inevitably, time and climate have taken their toll, and not only is it no longer possible to move the gate, but the poor thing is also falling to bits…

Our end-of-life gate
Having recently spent a lot of time (and money) restoring and re-inventing our home here, we thought a fitting finalé to our renovations would be to replace the old gate with something special. We searched online for a metalworking artist, and eventually commissioned James Price from East Chiltington, near Lewes, East Sussex, to design and make a new gate for us.

I have recently returned from a trip south, with our new gate stowed in the back of my van. I have to say, we are delighted with it. To most people – it is just a gate. But look closely, and the simple beauty of the hammered curves and hot-forged rivets and tenon joints are there to admire. There are no welds in this gate, and the hand-forged latch mechanism is a joy to behold!

Waiting in the wings...
Now, of course, the new gate and its metal posts have to be installed… This means firstly removing the old wooden posts. The old gate itself is very rusty, but still has enough strength to hang on pretty stubbornly. The original wooden gate posts may have been in place 50 years or more, but they haven’t rotted at all, and are putting up a very good fight against removal....

I may need to enlist some additional labour to complete the job, but we’ll have our beautiful new gate in place soon. More to follow…!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Allotment In June

On 11th May this year, I posted a couple of photos of the almost bare vegetable plots on my allotment. I will re-post one of them below. Just for the record, here are two new photos I have taken today. As you will see - plant life grows fast at this time of year on Skye, when we have about 18 hours per day of good daylight and growth-inducing temperatures and rainfall. Unfortunately, the weeds also grow very fast... but so far, I am just about keeping on top of them!

The allotment on 15th May 2017

The allotment today - just over one month later!

...and from the other end...
Foreground - Brussels sprouts and Kale. Middle left - Onions, Swede and Broccoli (with a little shelter)
Middle right - Potatoes. Far left - strawberries and rhubarb. Far right - more potatoes and carrots.
Distance - Beans (Broad and Runner) and Sugarsnap peas (better seen in the picture above).

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

On The Way To Skye

The vast majority of visitors to Skye who drive here from England will approach Scotland on the M6 and then continue on the A74(M) towards Glasgow after crossing the border just north of Carlisle.

The purpose of this post is to encourage such visitors to consider taking a detour for a day or two. Try turning left off the A74(M) and head west for a bit. The biggest town you'll find is Dumfries (population about 35,000). This historic town is worth a visit, and is the burial place of renowned Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

In Dumfries-shire, you will find mile after mile of green rolling pastureland dotted with patches of majestic trees. There is also some forest (one shares a name with the village with the shortest place-name in the UK - Ae) and to the south, the wide expanse of the Solway Firth is home to many thousands of geese and wetland birds.

Everywhere here is peaceful. Remember - the visitors have all dashed on north on the motorway. There are numerous small, quiet towns and villages - every one of them worthy of a wander-round. Head even further west, and you probably won't want to continue to Skye at all - Galloway has hills, forests, woodland, rivers, castles, beaches... and everywhere there is space to park your car and the eating places are't crowded.

Sue and I have just enjoyed an all too short break, staying just outside Dumfries. I could not claim that the landscape matches Skye for grandeur, but the almost total lack of visitors is refreshing, and there's plenty to see and do while on holiday. We have so many places on our 'must visit' list, but Dumfries and Galloway has not been completely crossed-off the list yet!

Caerlaverock Castle

Ruined - but very explorable!

The castle has a fascinating history of improvement and destruction 

Caerlaverock Castle

The Solway Firth

Wanlockhead - Scotland's highest village
Lead Mine Museum, Wanlockhead - you can pan for gold here
Wanlockhead also has the highest adhesion railway - a narrow-gauge industrial line

Leadhills village, Lowther Hills

Pausing in the Mennock Pass