Saturday, 15 June 2019

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

I walk Cupar the Collie along the same local roads every day, so am very aware of the growth of new vegetation on the roadside verges every spring. In 2016, I wrote a post in this blog, in which I commented that there seemed to be fewer wild flowers than usual. This year - there are hardly any.

When we first lived at Roskhill - some 10 years ago -  it was a delight to see the masses of white, yellow and purple wild flowers that flourished everywhere one looked. Today, while the grasses are as lush as ever, some of the formerly familiar flowers are absent altogether, and only bluebells (now dying back) and foxgloves (just opening) seem to be doing as well as ever. But the masses of ox-eye daisies have gone, as have the carpets of birds foot trefoil - with just a few small scattered patches of these flowers. I am yet to spot a spear thistle, white clover or a common spotted orchid, and while there are a few marsh orchids - they are a fraction of the size they used to be.

So, what has happened? I am no scientist - just an observer - but as we notice a reduction in wild flowers, so have we noticed a reduction in flying insects, and I presume the insects pollinate the flowers. So, no insects = no flowers. We are not killing insects here as the result of crop spraying or intensive farming. This surely has to be an effect of global warming.

Some reports say we have 15 years to reverse the effects of climate change. I say, we are already far too late. I was forecasting the end of the planet more than 50 years ago. My decision to never father any children was because of my vision of the future. I never expected to see the end happen so suddenly, and almost within my own lifetime.

Of course - the planet itself will survive. Indeed, once the human race is out of the way, nature will recover very capably. However, man's interference - by exterminating many species, genetically altering others, and relocating plants and animals to places they should never have been, will leave a planet-wide legacy that will be a change for ever.

Homo Sapiens is supposed to be an intelligent race. How wrong we are.

Common Spotted Orchid, Roskhill roadside, 2014
None here, 2019


Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Dorrell Oak


Eight years ago, I planted an acorn in a pot. It germinated, and in the first year, produced just two leaves. Three years later, I planted the little seedling oak tree, which now had several leaves, in what I judged to be a safe place for an oak tree to grow to maturity within the garden area of Roskhill Barn, just above the river gorge, and close to a few existing mature sycamore and beech trees. On windy Skye, trees growing together in this way give each other some protection from the winter storms. I think my little tree is now doing well enough to introduce it to the world.

But first, a little slightly off-topic history -

In May 1935, my Great Grandfather, James Dorrell, being the oldest resident of his village at the time, was given the honour of planting a tree in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. Watched by the entire village, a tree was planted by James on the edge of the green in the tiny village of The Lee, near Wendover in Buckinghamshire. No plaque was ever erected to mark the significance of the tree, and although as far as I am aware, the tree is still there – no-one is likely to be aware of its significance. Here is Great grandfather James at the tree-planting ...

James Dorrell, The Lee, Buckinghamshire
Planting the Jubilee tree
Now maybe it is because of this little bit of my heritage, or maybe it is because when once asked, “If you could come back to earth after death, what would you come back as”? I decided I would like to be a tree... But I also like the idea of planting trees. I’ve planted a few here and at our other cottages, but the Dorrell Oak, I hope, will become ‘special’.

Providing my little tree continues to flourish as it has done thus far, I have decided that when my time comes, I would like my ashes to be scattered beneath my little oak, so that its roots may take up just a tiny bit of me, and I will indeed then be back on earth as a tree. I will also make a request in my will that a plaque be erected by the tree to give its date of planting, and by whom.

Who knows – my tree could still be there in 500 years time. It’s a nice thought!

Coming into leaf, spring 2019 - The leaves are quite yellow as they open.
The sticks are there to remind me not to strim too close!
In context - the tree has a lot of growing to do!


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Allotment News - Spring 2019

Gosh, it's been  a long time since I have updated this blog with a post about the Barn allotment!

I promise I haven't been ignoring the plot. It is as healthy as ever, though last spring we had a visitor in the shape of Mr Bunny who took a fancy to every fresh green shoot that appeared from the beans and peas - so we only really had root vegetables last year!

This spring, in wonderful weather, I have prepared all the beds and have now planted most of the seeds. There's nothing to see growing in the photos yet, but I'll post a couple below anyway. I might wait a while before planting the carrot seed, as it won't germinate if we don't get a bit of rain. Not often I find myself wishing for rain...!!!

This picture shows pretty much the entire allotment.
I must remind Sue to get busy and do something with some of that rhubarb!
This is the area I like to think of as the 'wild garden'.
It was VERY wild a few years ago, but tamer now. The blue is bluebells.
I have planted what will become a hedge between the allotment beds and the 'wild' part.
I've also planted some trees among the vegetation on the left.
Beyond that, is a virtually sheer drop of about 30 feet into the gorge of Roskhill River.
Our land extends to just beyond the gorse bushes.
It's just the main road and open moorland beyond our boundary.

This is looking towards the Barn from the gorse bushes in the 'wild garden'.
The little road that serves the few houses in Roskhill runs between the Barn and the allotment.
The Barn faces to the left, with its gable-end alongside the road.
The buildings behind the Barn are not ours.
Click on any picture in this blog to see it full-size.

Friday, 10 May 2019

When is the Best Weather on Skye?

Quick answer - April and May.

Longer answer - yes, visit Skye in April and May, but bring thermal underwear just in case!

I am inspired to write this post because we are enjoying the most wonderful spell of settled calm, sunny weather at the moment  (and as it happens, it was much the same weather this time last year). It is just wonderful to be working on the allotment or walking Cupar in warm sunshine with the bluebells twinkling and a sparkling sapphire sea in the distance. I have almost forgotten where I have hung my waterproofs.


We enjoy a maritime climate here on the north west coast of Scotland. That means the weather is always unpredictable. As a broad over-view, I would suggest our weather is almost always chilly, often wet, and also usually windy.

Statistics will show that May is the driest month on Skye. But statistics also show that on occasions, May has been the wettest month in that particular year....!!!  But the spring brings other benefits -  the wild flowers... an often-blue sky and an even bluer sea... and a dawn chorus that you don't mind being waken up by...

Daylight hours are longest in June. In mid-month, dawn is at stupid o'clock, and it is still fully daylight at 10.00pm. You don't get to see the stars in June.

View from Roskhill - 10.00pm - 21 June 2010
The 'Longest Day'
The busiest tourist months of July and August are usually the mildest months - but don't plan to sunbathe. Come in mid summer and you are still likely to need your waterproofs, and I would suggest packing your thermal underwear too... just in case... (oh - and don't forget the midge repellent...)

Then, of course - you might like snow. We don't get a lot of snow around the coast of Skye (which is where most people live). though the higher hills usually have snow-cover for much of the time between November-ish  and March-ish. If you REALLY want winter snow - you are better off heading west and inland to the Cairngorms.