Monthly Archives: July 2016

Garden Update – July

July is fast coming to an end so I thought it was time for another garden update. It is not proving to be the best of summers. There has been lots (too much) of rain but thankfully temperatures are not as low as last summer, but it is not looking like we will have bumper harvests.

In the greenhouse, tomatoes and cucumbers are producing but not in big quantities so there has not been surplus for pickling. My cucumbers (and also the courgettes and squashes) have all got this strange virus – it looks like mildew, but starts as perfect circles and increases and multiplies till the whole leaf is covered. I keep taking off the affected leaves and so far the plants are surviving. One variety of cucumber (marketmore), shows no sign of the virus so I may concentrate on growing that variety next year.

In the polytunnel, the early broadbeans did well as did the Charlotte potatoes which we are about half way through. I have some beetroot to harvest and also started harvesting these purple kohlrabi. We all prefer them raw to cooked so will probably have the rest with salads. I just planted some more seed in the hope that I can get some to crop in late autumn or over winter for next spring.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Outside the first of the runner beans are appearing ( I put five plants in the poly on a wigwam and they are really not happy, and I don’t know why), and I am hoping for a better crop than last year. The dwarf beans are really suffering, probably because it is not warm enough. I did plant a couple in the greenhouse and it turns out this was a good idea because they are cropping well! Cabbages do seem to enjoy the wet and we’ve been enjoying the first (variety Greyhound), and I am hopeful that we will get a decent crop of red cabbage. Courgettes are small and slow.

We’ve had a few nice summer raspberries but the loganberries are proving very popular with the blackbirds!! We’ve picked over 2kg of blackcurrants and there are still some more. The kids are enjoying blackcurrant cordial and it’s a “bribe” to get them picking some of their own! Blackcurrants are always one of our best croppers.

 

Left Behind

On a recent walk near Mulranney in County Mayo, we came across the remains of an old tractor. There were bits of engine, a wheel axel, pieces of rubber, rusting metal and broken glass.

The tractor had probably been brought onto the bog to collect turf and had broken down. But why hadn’t it been worth taking back and repairing? I have no idea. Tractors are expensive, even old ones.

So it was left to decay and become part of the landscape. It is strange the things that people leave behind.

Walking in Mayo

County Mayo has much to offer walkers and cyclists and yet it is very under utilized. When we were in North Wales a couple of weeks ago there were walkers and ramblers everywhere. Many of the small villages within the Snowdonian National Park seem to rely on these visitors in order to make a living. It is estimated that 360,000 walkers climb the summit of Snowdon every year and that’s just one moutain. I can find no figures for County Mayo. Croagh Patrick, which is a pilgrim mountain has up to 20,000 walkers on Reek Sunday (the traditional day in July for climbing the mountain) but for the rest of the summer would have much fewer. The other mountain and hill walks in the county are relatively little explored.

View of Croagh Patrick from the other side of Clew Bay

View of Croagh Patrick from the other side of Clew Bay

Last week we completed a walk near Mulranny (Mallaranny) on the west coast of County Mayo. We were surrounded by amazing scenery, Clew Bay with all it’s islands and Croagh Patrick across the water and yet we saw no one (other than sheep and a few cows) till we got back to the start of our journey, where the path joins the now popular Great Western Greenway.

Greenway

Greenway

Initially, we followed the path that is part of the Rocky Mountain Way, then turned left onto a bog road (a road built to aid getting turf from bogs), and climbed gently uphill. We could see Croagh Patrick across the bay and looking NW, Achill Island.

Once at the top (and following a number of false summits) you get another view right over Ballycroy National Park – though by this time the cloud had come over and it wasn’t as clear as earlier in the day.

As well as sheep, hare droppings were evident and quite abundant. Heather (Erica tetralix) was in flower, and on some of the lower slopes was being visited by camera-shy bumblebees! Bog cotton and many amazing mosses also abounded. We found a few grouse feathers and hoped this now rare bird had not fallen victim to a predator.

The walk was a definite tick for my 16 for 2016 list  – 2: Find two new places in Mayo to explore

And is certainly a place I would like to explore some more.

Intimate details

There is nothing I like better than getting a good close up of a flower, bee or butterfly. I am fascinated by seeing the intimate structure of living things.

Flowers are great – they don’t move about (except in the wind) and you can usually get a good look at them, even without a still photograph.

Insects are a different matter though. A lot of my pictures end up blurry and not very sharp – or with half a bee as it takes off before the shutter has clicked fully. But when you do get that good close up – the detail can be amazing. I  also find it a very useful tool when trying to identify a species I am not familiar with.

This post was inspired by this week’s photo challenge – Detail

Erris Head Loop Walk

Erris Head is on the Mullet peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. Last week we completed the Erris Head Loop Walk, a five kilometre walk right to the most northerly point of the head. The walk is relatively easy and you get spectacular views of the Atlantic and in the distance the Stages of Broad Haven. The Stags are a group of five islets of steep rocky cliffs rising about 100m out of the sea. They are about 2km north of the cliffs of Benwee Head.

Erris Head is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and supports a range of wildlife, in particular sea birds. We saw nesting fulmars and also a pair of great skuas on Illandavuck Island, which lies just off the point. Gannets and guillemots could be seen fishing in the waters below. There was also a lovey range of flowers. The area is grazed by sheep (perhaps a bit too intensively) and so the best flowers were clinging to the cliff edges (bladder campion, Sheep’s bit scabious, wild thyme and more). Orchids were also common as was louseworth, bog asphodel, bog cotton and heather.

While we didn’t see any Irish hares we did see some hare droppings so they were definitely about.

Hare droppings

On the day we went the sea was flat calm but I can imagine that the place would be even more spectacular of a windy day with waves crashing against the cliffs below.

 

 

Visit to North Wales

We recently spent a week in North Wales, not far from Snowdonia National Park. The park covers over 2000 square kilometres of mountain, lakes, rivers, valleys, coast and woodland. It is rich in biodiversity and a great place to explore.

Snowdonia itself is the largest mountain in Wales (and England) at 1085m and is very popular with hill walkers. There are over 2000km of public footpaths in the park so plenty to choose from. We particularly enjoyed a walk at Cwm Idwal, Ogwen, which climbed just a little up a glacial valley and then around a lake. The paths are very well maintained and it was a perfect walk for the kids.

You cannot visit Wales without also visiting a castle. This year we visited Beaumaris Castle, on Anglesey. Beaumaris is a World Heritage Site. The castle built by the English King Edward I, was started in 1295 but was never actually completed.

The West Highland Railway runs a steam train through part of the National Park. It is a great way to view some of the amazing scenery, and you almost feel that you have stepped back in time when you board the train. We traveled just a short section of the 40 mile track from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu.

Just a little sample of our week in Wales.