Saturday, 29 September 2018

No one deserves to walk alone

To anyone who is exasperated by the way elderly people are so often marginalised, ignored, not taken seriously, or simply not 'heard'......

HELP THEM FIGHT THEIR CORNER!!!

It's not easy to do this: you will feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall... ..that you are a pest; that the system is against you; that you have no right to challenge decisions made by (some) experts in their field; that you have made a mistake and the person you are fighting to protect/help doesn't really need protection/help; etc etc..

Then, suddenly, just when you are ready to give up, you discover someone in a position of authority, who has the clout to actually DO something, has listened to you and taken your concerns seriously... and good things begin to happen for the person you are speaking out for.

We are of no use to man nor beast if we just sit back moaning & complaining about something behind the scenes. We have to step out of our comfort zone if we want to see change or action. And stepping out of our comfort zone is worth it. From personal experience I know this to be true.

This doesn't only apply to the people you love. Have a look around your local community....there will be many elderly people without relatives to help them survive this ever changing life we live. Speak to them......ask them what they find difficult, and offer to help. It may be that they just can't work out how to get a doctor's appointment now that everything is computerised..... or it may be that they can't GET to the doctor's so don't even bother making an appointment. Whatever it is, you may be in a position to help. If you are, don't think twice. Just do something. Anything you do will be better than doing nothing

No one deserves to walk alone  


(unable to find a photo credit for black & white photo. Do please let me know if you know who the photographer is)

Brigit x

Sunday, 9 September 2018

FOR SALE: BEAUTIFUL 6 BEDROOM FARMHOUSE IN CORNWALL

Would anyone like to buy a BEAUTIFUL 6 BEDROOM FARMHOUSE IN CORNWALL




Unexpectedly back on the market. Needs to sell soon.



Quarter of a mile from Par beach
Just under 3 acres of land
A stream
A spring that never dries up. Could easily feed the house
Outbuildings with planning permission for 4 holiday cottages
Lots more outbuildings
Enormous farmhouse kitchen
Mainline railway station to London at bottom of road
Fab local pub with restaurant
Thriving village shops
Solar panels
4 miles to Fowey and Lostwithiel
Wildlife heaven
Huge business opportunities
Friendly village and lovely neighbours

Challenges:

Grade 2 listed building
No central heating
One of the downstairs rooms damp
Land horribly neglected and overgrown. In a sorrier state than pics in brochure
Survey looks scary, but actually nowhere near as bad as it looks. Available to read by request from estate agents

Price £760,000. Priced to (hopefully) cover mortgage, estate agent and solicitor fees

INCREDIBLE opportunities here for someone who can afford the purchase price and has extra funds for renovation and outbuilding projects. Would make the most beautiful family home, home/business, B&B, healing or biodiversity centre, or co-housing project.

House 100% habitable, but need someone who isn't afraid of brambles or big fat surveys.

Link to Right Move - https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-74845142.html

ALL QUESTIONS TO FOWEY RIVER ESTATE AGENTS ONLY PLEASE!!!

Thank you so much for passing this on

Brigit xxx



Friday, 16 February 2018

Gardeners Helping Pollinators





Over the past few years I have delivered many 'bee' talks to horticultural societies, but the talk I gave last night was different. Actually, it wasn't the talk itself that was different, but rather the reason this particular society had booked me.

I have found it usual when delivering talks to members of gardening groups, that mine will be one of a series of talks, given over the course of a year's programme, on a wide and often disparate range of subjects. Of course the talk content will have been chosen to appeal to people who enjoy gardening, but that's usually as far as it goes.

The reason last night's talk was different, is that it was the opening talk in a year during which Wellow Horticultural Society (based in the village of Wellow, near Bath) are focussing their entire 'talks and events' programme around bees... with a particular focus on bumblebees and solitary bees.

I found it SO inspiring to deliver my talk to such an engaged and interested audience of people working together as a group to help pollinators. I'm afraid I ran a little over time, choosing to expand in some cases on areas that I usually only touch on for a moment or two. However I did this in the sure knowledge that this particular group were listening not only for general interest or entertainment value (you may not know it, but learning about bees can be extremely entertaining!), but because I knew they were planning to use any information I imparted to actively help bees. 

Pollinators need our help, and by pollinators I don't just mean bees. Changes in habitat, together with increased use of pesticides, climate change, pests and diseases, and many other issues are also contributing to declines in butterflies and other pollinating animals. Those of us with gardens can make a big difference by planting more pollen and nectar rich plants, and creating (or conserving) suitable habitats for these creatures to nest and hibernate.

"Recent research indicates that private gardens in Britain cover an area bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined, estimated at over 10 million acres. Individual gardens may be small but they create important green links between urban nature reserves and the wider countryside, forming vital wildlife corridors. The potential of the country’s millions of gardens to help counteract some of the habitat losses that we have experienced in the last 50 years is enormous. Making your garden wildlife-friendly will help to ensure that the plants and animals that we value today will still be there for future generations to enjoy" - from Hampshire and Isle of Wright Wildlife Trust website.

Wellow Horticultural Society explain in their January newsletter  how they plan to support wild bees this year. Do PLEASE have a look... it's really worth a read and might give you some ideas for your own gardening clubs or societies.

"We want you to come to the events, but also get involved, doing things to support bees and other pollinators. While the honey bee is an excellent pollinator, we want to focus on wild bees – bumble bees and solitary bees. You do know the difference don’t you? No? – then come along to our events to find out!........."



Monday, 27 November 2017

Things I love.....

I love bees and trees. And leaf skeletons and seed heads. I also love butterflies, catkins, pussy willow, woodlice, dragonflies and shield bugs; lemon verbena tea made with freshly picked leaves from the garden; hares; sunset, sunrise and sunshine; moonshine and starlight; old man's beard; watching solitary leaf cutter bees building their nests in my garden; and knowing that you are never too old to fall in love. I love starling murmurations; wintersweet; grasses and beetles; and art. I love uploading my macro photographs when I come back from a walk and then pouring over my reference books to identify new (to me) species and I love the tawny owls when they t'wit & t'woo outside our bedroom window at night. 

I love the weather. I love snow and can't wait for it to fall again so I can make snow angels. I love fairy lights; my friends and my family; wild flowers (especially the rebels that grow between paving slabs); birds, bats, mice and toads; making nature mandalas; reference books illustrated with beautiful photographs and drawings; native hedgerows; Imbolc (Brigid/Brigit's Day) - and the fact that my mother named me 'Brigit' when I was born. And the Moomins…..oh how I love the Moomins.... Snufkin and Moominmamma and the Hattifatteners. And the Hemulen. You can't not love the Hemulin.

I love mosses and lichens; live music; speaking about the beautiful world of wild bees; seaweed and sand; Hairy Footed Flower Bees (yes, such creatures exist) walking barefoot on the beach; rainbows, corkscrew hazel and unicorns. I love raging rivers as they crash across rocks and boulders; streams so small that they are almost hidden by the undergrowth... and puddles. And jumping in puddles. I love juicing apples and the fact that the juice changes colour when it meets the air.  I love Dorset, Cornwall, Norfolk, Northumberland, The Western Isles and all the other breathtakingly beautiful places that I have lived in or connected with; I especially love The Malvern Hills. I love coastal paths; being a mother and a grandmother; old man's beard; candlelight; moths, caterpillars and spider's webs; hazel nuts and fungi; the beautiful hand crafted things that people have gifted me; ginger flavoured dark chocolate truffles and adding chopped lemon to pretty much everything I cook. I love Puffins and Pufflings; the amazing noises that Eider ducks make and the shape of Curlews' beaks. And being kept awake at night on the Isle of Barra by Corncrakes. And feathers and crystals and everything that sparkles. And I LOVE rough haired lurchers. 


I love long-tailed tits and wrens; discovering bumblebee nests in unexpected places; the aliveness of water; the silence of stillness and clouds that look like dragons for a moment or two before they shift shape seamlessly into hippopotami; knowing that you are never too old to fall in love; loving and being loved back. I love grass snakes and I love reading 'Meadowland' - a book so delightful I still haven't read the last chapter because I can't bear for it to end. I love Meadow Pippits, even though I have yet to meet one; sitting by the wood burner with a bowl of porridge on a cold winter morning; winter squashes; summer squashes; sowing seeds, saving seeds and swapping seeds; dandelion clocks; carving wooden spoons; greater stitchwort; nice surprises; meeting friends in cafes for a cup of tea; yoga; collecting sea glass and driftwood from the beach; bees; swimming in the sea; curly kale; sutherland kale; russian kale; black kale…….and SO much more!

And I love my children and grandchildren, and my husband Rob, to the moon and back.


It feels good to make lists of the things you love and appreciate every now and then, especially during these challenging times when it is all too easy to feel overwhelmed by all the doom and gloom. It reminds you how wonderful it is (and how lucky we are) to be alive. It fills you with the positive energy and inspiration to DO something to preserve all that is sacred to you.  


Wishing everyone who has read this post a beautiful day, evening, week and life…. and hoping you all enjoy making your own lists of things you love as much as I enjoy making mine! x


Friday, 6 October 2017

The Lost Words


The postman delivered something very beautiful today. A book. But not just any old book. This book just happens to be one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen. A 'keep forever' book.

The words in this magical book are themselves works of art. Inspired words, beautiful words, words with purpose that weave together other familiar but strangely endangered words; like Acorn, Conker and Otter.

The illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful; page after page of images you can't help tracing with your fingers, as though this will somehow imprint them in your mind... like a visual mantra you can summon up whenever you have need of 'beauty'. The otters are imprinted in my mind already. I can see them when I close my eyes.

The book is 'The Lost Words' - written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. It is for children of all ages - from 1 - 101

More about The Lost Words and the story behind the need for it to be written, here https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/on-writing/cover-story/2017/jul/designing-the-lost-words/ 

Thank you Robert and Jackie for championing these words - and the creatures and plants they conjure up






Sunday, 3 September 2017

Snail shell bees



Another little excerpt from my book.

 
It’s raining. This means my planned excursion to Salisbury Plain to search for the snail shell bee Osmia spinulosa would most likely be quite fruitless, so I’ve decided to stay at home and write about her instead....

I first came across this little solitary bee a few years ago whilst living in West Malvern, Worcestershire. By that time I had begun to take photographs of pretty much anything ant-sized and upwards that visited my tiny patio garden on the side of the hill - and had already uploaded a few thousand images of two, four, six and eight legged creatures to a file on my lap-top titled ‘unidentified garden visitors’. Many of my garden visitors will remain forever unlabelled in that file, but when I enlarged the photograph I took of this particular bee, I could tell from her ‘jizz’ that she must be an Osmia species... and was quite excited when I realised she wasn’t one I already knew. She was certainly not one of my regular bee hotel nesters. 

As well as being excited by the possibility of adding a new bee to my garden tick list, I was also struck by the fact that my hitherto almost-non-existent ID skills had just notched up a level; i.e. I was able to place this bee into a ‘genus’ before going the BWARS (Bees, wasps & ants recording society) site rather than after hours of trawling through it searching for a visual match or posting my photograph on twitter to ask for help. I cannot tell you how empowering this felt.

Once I had decided she was an Osmia species, it was relatively easy to pin-point exactly which. Many of our solitary bee species are impossible to tell apart without a microscope, but this one had unusual blue/green/ eyes so I was able to identify her very quickly.

So, not only was this a new bee (for me) but I had also managed to identify her accurately and entirely by myself as O. spinulosa - the Spined Mason-bee. On their own, these two happenings were already worthy of celebration, but once I started to read about her nesting behaviour I could barely contain my excitement.  I’d been watching other Osmia species flying back and forth to my bee hotels carrying balls of mud or chewed up leaf mastic with their mouthparts - or with the undersides of their abdomens caked in bright yellow/orange pollen - and was already entranced by their nesting behaviour. But this bee doesn't lay her eggs in bee hotels, she lays them in old snail shells. A bee who makes her nest in snail shells… how exciting is that? And how in the world had I never come across her before?!

More about these, and other snail shell nesting bees in my book, but for anyone who has come to this blog searching for information about snail shell bees, please see Steven Falk's amazing flickr pages which are full of photographs and information....


Osmia spinulosa (Spined mason bee)

Osmia bicolor (Red tailed mason bee)

Osmia aurulenta (Gold-fringed mason bee)

B x

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Of Snowdrops and Hairy-footed Flower Bees

Male Hairy-footed Flower Bee
It’s February 17th and I’ve just seen my first Hairy-footed flower bee of the year. She’s foraging amongst the snowdrops in the gardens where my husband, Rob, works, and I can barely contain my excitement. I watch her darting from flower to flower, her proboscis extended as she sups the nectar provided by these earliest of blooms. I am enthralled. Her small black furry body emits the high-pitched buzz so typical of this species, that first alerted me to her presence in the flowerbed - and I am smitten, all over again, by this charming little bee.

I can’t believe I don’t have my camera with me! I have never before seen a Hairy-footed flower bee foraging on a snowdrop and would so love to have a photograph to accompany my record when I submit it to BWARS (Bees, Wasps, Ants Recording Society) later today. I wonder if mine will be the first sighting this year, or perhaps even the earliest sighting ever....?

The Hairy-footed flower bee’s scientific name ‘Anthophora plumipes’ (plumipes meaning ‘feather-footed’) sounds, to me, almost as beautiful as her common name, although the ‘plumipes’ part only really applies to the male of the species. The male’s middle legs are elongated and adorned with long feathery hairs, which he uses to transfer secretions from his abdominal glands to the female’s antennae whilst he mates with her. It looks like he’s covering her eyes with his legs whilst he does this.  I have no idea what might be the significance of this transfer of secretions during mating; it is but one of many mysteries I have yet to unravel in my on-going quest to understand more about the fascinating and beguiling world of bees. 

Unusual amongst our British bee species, male and female Hairy-footed Flower bees are quite different to each other in appearance, although both are fairly easy to recognise and identify in their own right, even for complete beginners.  Hairy-footed females are jet black all over, with bright yellow/orange pollen brushes on their hind legs, whilst males of the species are golden-brown in colour (fading to a paler colour as they spend more time in the sun) with pale yellow faces and, of course, very beautiful hairy legs.

Although Hairy-footed flower bees are solitary species, they are often mistakenly identified as bumblebees... and with their rotund body shape and complete covering of hair this is hardly surprising. However when they first emerge in early spring there should be less confusion, for the only bumblebees on the wing at that time of year are the enormous queens who have just emerged from hibernation.  Compared to these huge bumblebee queens, Hairy-footed flower bees are actually quite small. 

Colour, shape and size aside, the easiest way to recognise this bee - and to tell it apart from other bees - is undoubtedly by its behaviour. No other species of bee (apart from other related Flower bee species) behaves, forages or sounds quite like the Hairy-footed flower bee. Zipping back and forth from flower to flower, with such speed and purpose that you can barely keep your eye on them, and then hovering for a few seconds in the air like miniature humming birds as they probe for nectar and pollen with their long pointed proboscises; their behaviour really is most distinctive and almost un bee-like. Add to this their highly pitched ‘buzz’ and the male’s territorial tendencies, and there’s no mistaking a Hairy-footed flower bee when you meet one....



Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee