Today I bagged another of the Malvern Hills – Chase End Hill at the southern end of the Malvern Hills. This is the very last hill in the chain and reaches a mere 624ft (191m) but I think this walk was my favourite to date.
We started our walk in Whiteleaf Oak which is a small sprawling hamlet. I wouldn’t have known where to park or where to start the walk from by luckily my eldest had been camping on the side of the hill a few weeks before so knew exactly where to park. He was keen to come along as Chase End Hill was the last of the Malverns for him to cross off. The walk up the lower part of the hill is steady and overlooks sloping fields with horses and wonderful views with the fresh green of new leaves beginning to take over from the gaunt bare branches. Then you are faced with a short rather steep climb which you can see in the photograph above.
Looking back up the hill this is the view in front of you which is a little daunting but encouraging as you know you are very nearly there. It was a surprisingly quick climb.
As you would expect from the top of any hill the views were wonderful. Above is looking back along the Malverns to the next in the chain which is Raggedstone Hill and the first I climbed back at the end of May 2015. If you look very carefully to the left you can just see the Obelisk at Eastnor. I spent most of the time morning coverting the houses you can see at the base of the hill.
Looking the other way and you can just spot May Hill near Gloucestershire. Locally Chase End Hill is called the Gloucestershire Beacon. I don’t think this is its official name as I can find no supporting evidence for this and the name probably has come about because of the rivalry between the three counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, all of which can be seen from the top of the Malverns. With people living on the side of the hills either living in Herefordshire or Worcestershire it is only natural that the smallest hill should be the Gloucestershire Beacon!
Whilst the climb up had been nice it was the walk down the other side which was really special, mainly because of the sheets of bluebells whose scent filled the air. I am used to seeing bluebells on the side of the Malverns but generally amongst the trees and lower down so to see such large colonies in such an exposed location surprised me.
This part of the walk felt more like walking through some sort of 18th century landscape than a walk on the Malvern Hills. I have tried to research this hill but there is little information. However ‘Chase’ is a common name in this area and research shows that it was the name given to the ancient forest which covered this area all the way to the Severn River and out towards Hereford and is recorded as far back as Edward I. The land is inextricably linked with royal history particularly that of the Plantagenents who fought many a battle along the Welsh Marches, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. King John is buried in Worcester Cathedral which is no more than 30 minutes drive away and at one time part of the Chase belonged to Anne Neville daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was key in the War of the Roses. Anne went on to marry Richard III. As this is my favourite period of English history I find the associations particularly interesting.
On the lower slopes heading back down the hill the bluebells were joined by daffodils. I am convinced these are wild native daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, or Lent Lily.
Not the best photograph I know but good enough for me to look it up in my wild flower book and convince myself it is indeed the wild daffodil. Hardly surprising as we are not far from the Golden Triangle based around Dymock which is home to the Daffodil Way.
All in all a very nice walk. I only have 7 hills left to tick off but some of them I should be able to do in one walk. Of course there are many people who walk the length of the hills in one go but I want to make sure I go to the top of each hill and the paths that run the length of the hills often bypass some of the peaks. I think I have 3 or 4 more walks to do.
For the rest of my Hills reports click on the tab ‘Malvern Hills Challenge‘ along the top of the box in the side bar.
Hugh’s Border has really filled out in the last month especially with the hostas planted under the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ emerging. I am determined to crack this border this year. It looks Ok but in previous years there has been something lacking and it has felt bitty and not really me. Over the last month I have added some lupins with red/orange flowers and also Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’. These will add to the red and orange theme that seems to be the emerging in this area.
Here’s the other end of Hugh’s Border (Hugh is the owl). This part of the border is more woodland/shade planting. The Pulmonaria are beginning to go over which I am sure will disappoint the bees. Just behind them are some trillium and lots of Onoclea sensibilis as it seems to have decided to spread after sitting quietly for years – I presume due to the mild wet winter.
Here is the other end of the woodland bit of the border (nearest the bench). The big round leaves are Cardiocrinum giganteum which has reappeared this year and hopefully will flower. The lime green strappy leaves are Iris sibirica, I think it is a pale blue variety but it hasn’t flowered for a few years due to being moved so maybe this year will be the year when I discover which variety they are.
This is the front of the border and the area of the border which has been really perplexing me. I have moved a couple of hellebores here from near the bench as it was difficult to see their flowers in their old location. It seems hellebores like to face the sun so from the bench you just saw the back of the flowers in their new location you can see the flowers from the grass path. I am trying to bulk up the planting and foliage textures in this area so plan to add to it as the year progresses.
So that is the border at mid Spring, lots of new shoots appearing and promise of things to come.
If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome. All I ask is that you add a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comments box below. You can use the meme however you want – to focus on one area in particular, to look around the whole garden, whatever suits you.
So this was the front garden this morning. Regular readers will know that I have been procrastinating for some time, maybe years, about the front garden and getting rid of the lawn. I decided this year that it would go but instead of embracing it head on earlier in the year I have occupied myself with various other ‘essential’ tasks in the main garden. I suspect there was a small voice questioning whether I was making the right decision, and then there was all the work that would be involved lifting the turf and getting rid of it and really can I keep on top of the main garden so why do I want to make the front garden more work! However, the patio has been filling up with pots of plants for the front garden in anticipation of its make-over so either I donate them all to local plant fairs or I just get on with it.
Anyway I have completed all the jobs I had come up with that had to be done before I tackled the front garden and set my mind to starting work today. I have to admit that it was tough going especially as the turf needed to go to the far corner of the main garden up a considerable slope with two sets of steps and a garage in between. Luckily my youngest son popped round to help and my eldest joined in for the afternoon so between us we started to get a system going between us. We managed between us to lift about half of the lawn which is a good start and means that I can start to dig over the soil and add some compost. I have a couple of shrubs that I really want to get in the ground asap so that is the first priority. And the reason my final niggle was put to bed is because Noel Kingsbury, who visited yesterday with his wife Jo, within a very short time made the observation that the front garden just isn’t me – which I think is what I have been trying to say for a while.
Now, what to do with the turf? Yes, I should stack it neatly to rot down and make wonderful potting compost but I don’t really have space for a stacked lawn. Some of the mossy crumbly bits were placed on top of one of the compost bins to slowly rot down. Then in a demonstration of how not to lay turf I have started to turf the area in front of the compost bins – creating what my youngest has decided to call Hobbitland! It has a 50:50 chance; if the turf takes then it will stabilise the slope but if it doesn’t take then so be it. Even more amusing to my sons was that I turfed around the plants that have self-seeded on the slope – as I said a lesson in how not to turf!! If it takes then we will keep it in check with a strimmer but the intention is that it will be more wild than tidy and I would love to add crocus and other bulbs and maybe plant some primulas amongst the turf. There will be more turf to add when we lift the rest of the lawn and it needs tidying up once we have assessed whether it has taken or not – in the meantime the blackbirds are having a lovely evening looking for worms in the sodden turf and I am feeling very pleased.
Today is our Queen’s 90th birthday, Happy Birthday Ma’am, and as part of the celebration there have been beacons lit across the country including on Worcestershire Beacon in the Malvern Hills which I live on the lower slopes of.
The lighting of beacons, although historic, seems to have risen in popularity since the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Malvern went the old-fashioned approach then with a large bonfire which was quite wonderful. Sadly the approach seems to have moved towards gas beacons, probably due to health and safety, and the some of that primeval magic has been lost. However, there is still something very special in seeing people making their way up the Beacon, the highest point in the Hills at 425m, and coming together to mark a special occasion.
As 8:30 approached people started moving towards the beacon, a lady sang Land of Hope and Glory and a speech was made by the Lord Lieutenant before the beacon was lit. We sang the national anthem and Happy Birthday, dogs barked and mobile devices were held aloft in an attempt to take a photo.
It was a lovely way to spend the evening with my sons and their friends, bumping into people we know. And as an added bonus I can cross off the Worcestershire Beacon from my Malvern Hills Challenge, especially as we took one of the harder routes up the hill.
Pots of blue and lilac primulas
I have a habit these days of trying to catch up with garden magazines over a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning. This morning, for the first time in years, I had a copy of the Gardeners World magazine to read. I have shunned the magazine as being full of the basics and instead have chosen to read other horticultural magazines such as the English Garden and Gardens Illustrated but over the last 6 months or so I have found myself flicking through them looking for something to engage with; they are full of amazing gardens but with little of the horticultural detail I have sought. I think my struggle to find the right sort of horticultural literature is indicative of the changes in my approach to my garden and horticulture which has crept up on me over the last year.
For some years now I have charged around the country visiting gardens, attending shows, talks and workshops many of which have featured on this blog. I have been lucky in receiving invitations to all sorts of events; helped, albeit briefly, build a Cheslea show garden; exhibited plants in shows, including RHS shows; had posts published on a national newspaper website; had a regular monthly slot on the local BBC radio gardening programme; been paid for a number of years to write a weekly blog on gardening; and recently had the blog mentioned in Women’s Weekly. I have enjoyed it all but now looking back I wonder how I managed to find the energy and I know deep down inside that whilst I have been charging around doing all of this there has been a little voice in my head expressing concern and a dis-satisfaction at the standard of my own garden.
I know now that the energy came from a lack of fulfilment in my previous role at work. It was not stretching me mentally and I seemed to have a lot of nervous energy and had seriously started to wonder if I was hyperactive. Having my role change at work drastically, particularly over the last 6 months, has made me understand that I’m not hyperactive I was just bored. I now have a challenging and demanding role which I am loving, although the learning curve is rather steep, which means that at the end of the day and particularly the end of the working week I am mentally wrung out and this is clearly being reflected in my approach to this blog and gardening. I have said before that I don’t want to spend much time on social media any more and it’s because I don’t want any more stimulation as I don’t always sleep well. So since Christmas I have made a conscious effort to avoid social media apart from in small doses and I try to make that early evening and it seems to have
What I do want to do is practical things. I suppose as a result of being stretched mentally it is natural to want to do something with your hands and particularly something which doesn’t require too much careful thought. So in the evenings I sew which I find calming and hopefully as the evenings get longer and warmer I will be able to potter outside. Pottering in fact is my new gardening mantra and the driver behind this blog post, although I think I may have wandered a little. My enthusiasm for my garden is as strong as ever but I no longer feel a need to conquer the world; I just want to be a very good gardener and plants person. I want to grow good healthy plants and I want to create a garden that showcases the rather eclectic mix of plants I have accumulated to their best advantage and that is beautiful. I want to get my orchids to re-flower, I would be thrilled if my tree peony flowered and if I can nurture the meconopsis blue poppies into flowering I will be elated.
What I don’t seem to have a desire to do is charge around the country visiting and seeing things. I know it is good for a gardener to see other gardens to get inspiration and I am sure someone famous said something along those lines but I feel my head, the blog and my picture archive is full of inspiration – so much inspiration that it is now overwhelming. Interestingly when I ran a little survey on this blog asking what sort of posts readers liked the overwhelming first choice were posts about my garden rather than about other people’s gardens and certainly no product reviews. I found that quite striking and it has been at the back of my mind for a while – it was almost like being given permission to stop!
So going back to my morning reading I really enjoyed the Gardeners World magazine. Yes there were the obligatory sections on taking cuttings but I hadn’t thought of taking Dianthus cuttings, which I plan to try this week, nor have I ever really had a go at basal cuttings so I will also be trying that on my Lamium. I was reminded to sow some annuals when the ground warms up a little and I was heartened by an article encouraging us to forsake the straight lines of parterres and other popular design solutions in favour of curves – more of that another day (probably). Importantly, for me, there were no articles on amazing gardens that I, with a small garden and not being able to afford a gardener, will never be able to aspire to – instead I felt encouraged and reassured with some new things to try, just enough to get me outside to enjoy the sunshine and shouldn’t that be what gardening is all about? I will of course go to the Malvern show, and probably Chelsea (particularly as I have a free ticket) and I have a garden visiting trip with friends to the east of the country in June but in the meantime I will potter and go back to the basics.
The garden is sparkling with colour, lots of spots of colour much like an impressionist painting and I have to say that this is certainly my garden’s best season. The colour and shimmer is created from lots of small flower heads in a myriad of pastel colours. So for this month’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post I thought I would zoom in on my favourite flowers this week.
Alot of the colour comes from the various Narcissus which I add to every year. This year’s new additions include Narcissus Baths Flame which I am rather taken with. The petals are a buttery yellow, very soft when you compare them to the hard yellow of the obligatory large trumpet daffodils that you see in public planting. The flowers glow as the light fades and I think that is because of the whiteness of the petals.
Narcissus Sailboat is another new addition and it definitely reinforces my preference for the paler narcissus; I do like the slightly yellow trumpet.
Narcissus Thalia is an almost pure white – very pure.
Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ is my favourite double narcissus, it has the most wonderful scent which you catch as you are weeding away in the border. I prefer the single daffodils and I really dont like the blousey over breed narcissus which seem to popular at the moment.
As the narcissus go over the tulips start but sadly I only have three tulips in the borders this year. I haven’t planted them for a few years due to badger damage but these three have persisted year on year and are very pretty. I have decided to risk them again next year as we haven’t had a visit from the badger for a couple of years now.
A lot less elegant than the narcissus is the Imperial fritillary. This is the first year I have grown them and I am a little disappointed that the plants don’t seem to have developed a tall stem for the flowers as you would expect. I have two from different sources and both have done the same so maybe it is a result of the weather.
I always forget the Leucojum vernum and are surprised when I first spot their nodding flowers thinking at first they are late snowdrops. The clump has been planted for some years now and is expanding very slowly; maybe I will invest in some more and create a bit of a drift.
Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ is a very recent acquisition. I was seduced by the almost velvet flowers which are working very well with the ageing flowers of Helleborus Anna’s Red and also Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’. I really hope it reappears next year.
Not all the colour is from bulbs or primulas as the blossom is beginning to appear. This week Amelanchier decided to start flowering picking up the blossom of Prunus kojo-no-mai and will soon be joined by the large unknown Prunus that dominates the garden at this time.
Thank you to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting this meme.