Category: River Stour

Confluent: River of Words

Our blog post today comes from Stuart Bowditch, sound recordist, who recently launched his project Confluent: River of Words. Read about his project and text installations here and be sure to listen to his podcast.

Confluent: River of Words

Text installation at the Granary Tearoom

I am a sound recordist, artist and musician and my main interests gravitate towards people and place. Through working on socially engaged project The River Runs Through Us with painter Ruth Philo in 2017, I grew to love the Stour Valley and recently moved to Sudbury to immerse myself in the area and hopefully work on some more projects exploring its long and rich history and beautiful landscape.

This area of outstanding natural beauty does however need a lot of management and care and there are a lot of people, organisations and resources that are dedicated to keeping the valley and surrounding areas a place that we can all enjoy. In the spring of 2018, The River Stour Trust’s 50th anniversary, I was lucky enough to secure funding from Dedham Vale AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund for a new project Confluent: River of Words, to record, document and share the voices of those people whose hard work helps to maintain, conserve and preserve this unique landscape, for us and future generations, but also for the myriad of flora and fauna that share it with us.

I met with nearly thirty people, each with their own unique perspective on the area and working in a specific area or patch of the valley. I have included a list below of everyone who I spoke to and am grateful to them all for their generosity, wisdom and time.

The conversations have been edited in to a series of podcasts on the topics of Partners and Collaboration, Natural Beauty, Volunteers and Habitat. Whilst listening back to the hours of footage I collected some of the phrases and statements that contributors had made, a list of trees and all of the dragon and damsel flies that can be spotted at Foxearth Meadows, and turned them in to three text installations that can be found on two of the River Stour Trust boats ‘Rosette’ and ‘Edwardian Lady’, and also in the Granary Tea Room in Sudbury. The text installations will be visible until the end of the summer season and the podcasts are online now at

Stuart Bowditch

Contributors: Robert Erith, Robert Baker,Tony Platt, Lesley Ford-Platt , Catherine Smith, Simon Amstutz, Emma Black, Martin Gosling, Brenda Gosling, Sally Bartrum, Nigel Chapman, Dave Dignum, Cat Burrows, Arthur Studd, Mark Prina, Will Akast, Ben Norrington, Adrian Walters

AONB Volunteers: William Ford, Bob Smith, Lorna McGain, Howard Leader, Will Eden, Peter McGain, David Dale, Ian Thompson, Steve Pritchard, Deena Harding

RST Volunteers: Jim Lunn, Paul Roberts,

Text contribution:Susannah Robirosa

Notes from a riverside garden – March 2019

Our blog post today is from SB with more of her interesting observations from her beautiful garden on the banks of the River Stour. We hear of her spring planting plans, including planting some delightful witch hazels which will provide colour next winter.

Garden Clippings

The recent spell of unseasonably warm weather brought some early visitors to the garden.  A butter yellow brimstone butterfly was seen on the 23rd February and a peacock butterfly sunning itself on the house wall.  Several types of bee were out feeding on the flowers of the crocuses and Pulmonaria.  We have several Pulmonaria plants dotted around, sporting white through to the vivid blue flowers of ‘Blue Ensign’, which are extremely popular with bees on warm days.

At the bird table either a marsh or willow tit was feeding on the seed mix.  According to our bird identification book it is extremely difficult to tell them apart.  It was a fleeting visitor as I have not seen it since but we very much hope a pair will be nesting somewhere in the garden.

The dead stalks of the nettles etc. that grow along the upper parts of the riverbanks have all been scythed down and removed to the compost heap.  We use a scythe as it seems more appropriate than an intrusive and harsh strimmer along the riverside. We do not cut the reeds but keep above them maintained at this time as it keeps the area manageable.  Soon it will be a mass of wild plants including willow herb, hemp-agrimony and of course nettles.  We encourage the wild plants on most of the riverbank areas only keeping the more formal areas clear so that we can enjoy the view of the river from the lawns.

We purchased some new plants for the garden at our annual early spring visit to our favourite garden centre at East Bergholt.  We have redesigned a corner in a terrace area beside the house.  The assorted pots of ornamental grasses, all of which have seen better days have been removed and we have replaced them with a large terracotta pot containing a Magnolia soulangeana.  We also snapped up a Chaenomeles (Japanese quince) with an apricot coloured flower to grow against a wall in our formal garden.  We already have a fabulous deep pink Chaenomeles which is currently giving us a splendid display.  Then we succumbed to three Hamamelis (witch hazel).  On the island we have a group of five Betula papyrifera (Canoe birch), which have a pale orange-brown bark, Corylus avellane ‘Webbs Prize Cobb’  are planted behind them.  We intend to plant the witch hazels which are mollis and varieties ‘Barmstedt Gold’ and ‘Arnold Promise’ at the front to give, in time, a blaze of winter colour to accompany the catkins of the hazels.  I have been inspired to plant more witch hazels by a recent visit to the delightful Green Island Gardens at Ardleigh where they have a large collection of witch hazels adding such form and colour to their garden in winter.

We frequently hear the otters whistling to each other after dark in the millpond.  The kingfishers are regularly seen, a fabulous blue streak accompanied by a high-pitched whistle.  I was blessed with one sitting on the hedge immediately outside our study window, I have never seen one so close before and the colours were incredible.  It was a brief rest for the kingfisher and then it flew off across the millpond to its usual hunting spot on the fallen willow.  SB

Notes from a riverside garden – February 2019

Our blog post today comes from SB with “Garden Clippings”, her seasonal observations from her garden on the banks of the River Stour. In this edition SB is surprised by an opportunistic visitor to the garden!

Garden Clippings

We have had a sparrow terrace nest box on our garage apex for several years now and this is being used regular by house sparrows and occasionally great tits.  As we have a larger number of house sparrows in the garden we decided to make our terrace into a sparrow street and have added two more terraces providing a total of nine nesting sites.  The new boxes may not be used this spring, we shall have to wait and see. 

Pruning is being done as the weather allows.  The several clematis around the garden have been cut down and progress is being made on the climbing roses.  We have a large pergola with various roses, a pale pink Montana clematis, fragrant summer jasmine and a white wisteria twisting its way through the roses.  We are gradually training it along the length of the pergola.   Pruning this large area is quite a challenge but well worth the effort, particularly for the wisteria which rewards us with a mass of cascading white flowers to walk beneath.  We do not prune the jasmine or the clematis.  Although following severe winters we have had to cut the jasmine hard back to regenerate it.

Today, as no frost is forecast, I have been cutting back our five buddleia on the butterfly bank, all different shades of mauves and a white when in flower. Two sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ and a variegated box elder, which need hard pruning to keep them a reasonable shape as they put on a large amount of growth each year.  One of the sambucus nigra is located close to our group of three mature silver birch which are underplanted with snowdrops.  It has been a windy day and the snowdrops looked fantastic jingling their numerous heads in the breeze.  The strong wind had caused numerous sprays of fine birch twigs to tumble from the trees.  I will be gathering these up as they make excellent kindling for our wood burning stove, even straight from the garden they burn fiercely and only a small amount is needed to light a fire.

We feed the birds suet blocks in a metal, cage like feeder.  The blocks seemed to be consumed at quite a rate and regularly needed refilling.  Despite an almost constant coming and going of great tits, blue tits and long-tailed tits we were suspicious they were not alone in appreciating the fine dining on offer.  The “extra guest” revealed itself this week – I glanced out of the window to see a bank vole tucking into the suet block!  Accessing the feeder via a very narrow branch which conveniently rose up in front of the feeder providing the vole with the perfect route to the food.  After eating its fill it disappeared in a flash down the branch and into the dense foliage of the hedge behind.  Amazingly, it had climbed around twelve feet through the ivy-clad forsythia to reach the feeder!  SB

Notes from a riverside garden

Happy New Year! Our first blog post of 2019 comes from SB with “Garden Clippings”, her seasonal observations from her garden on the banks of the River Stour. She tells us about the wildlife coming to her garden, including a very unusual visitor!

We planted a new witch hazel last spring and despite watering as much as possible throughout the drought its leaves withered and died late summer and we feared we had lost it to the dry conditions.  To our delight we now see flower buds have formed and the witch hazel is alive and well.  All those buckets of water were worthwhile after all!

The bird table is very busy with a good size flutter of sparrows also blue tits, long tailed tits, coal tits, great tits, robins, green finches, goldfinches, a female reed bunting, lesser spotted woodpecker, starlings, blackbirds and the occasional sparrow hawk swooping through.  On the island we have had a new sighting, a water rail (see photo).   We have the reed beds there and dense vegetation along the riverbanks which it prefers.  Our reference book informs us that it feeds on insects and their larvae, crustaceans, worms, fish and even other birds, together with roots, berries and seeds.  I have heard a strange call when walking around the island and perhaps the water rail has been responsible.  The reference book states its weird cries have been likened to those of a screaming pig!

Nocturnal visitors to the garden of late include badger, fox, muntjac, stoat, otters (a family of three have been seen) and the occasional rat and mouse.

Welcome signs of spring greet us as we walk around – crocus and daffodil are making an appearance and we have aconites and snowdrops in flower.  The willows are sporting fabulous catkins, furry ovals of silver along their upright stems, which look stunning against a blue winter sky when the light catches them.  The hazels have cascading clusters of catkins.  In the border the hellebores are about to enchant us with their pendulous flowers, so worth stopping for a moment, lifting a flower to admire the beauty within.  SB

Garden Clippings November

Garden Clippings

Our blog post today comes from SB as she tells us about her beautiful riverside garden in November.

Our garden appears to be situated in a frost hollow and as a result we have had to scrape the frozen car windscreen on two or three early mornings recently. Regrettably the fabulous display of dahlias was reduced to limp flowers atop blackened stems during one overnight frost. I have since cut them all off to a few inches above the ground and covered them over with a deep blanket of straw. In the past I have dug up and overwintered some of the more prized tubers but I am leaving them all in situ as I have lost none of the plants left out overwinter for the past few years and storage space is limited. The greenhouse is full of tender plants now tucked away for their winter sojourn.

It was necessary to have some major tree surgery carried out to a large willow with many diseased or dead branches which were in peril of falling onto a bridge below. The bridge was designed and built for us by a good friend who sadly passed away at an early age. The bridge is a great asset to the garden and allows a circular walk around the island. We are reminded of our friend when we walk over it and we certainly didn’t want it damaged during a gale. The willow will regenerate from the trunk and stumps of branches.   We now have an enormous pile of future firewood and the whole space has been “opened up” allowing more light into the area of water adjacent to the willow. A white waterlily which has not be flourishing of late should now benefit from the additional light. We had a bonfire of all the small, unusable brush but anything which could be “logged up” has gone onto the firewood pile. Very little has been wasted.

Piles of windfall apples and quince surround the base of the trees. Many were picked but with such a heavy crop unfortunately many were left on the trees, partly due to us being away on holiday at the time of harvesting. Timing a holiday with a productive garden is never easy! However, the moorhens, blackbirds and robins are all enjoying the feast. Wormlike creatures are slowly breaking down the quince plus the voles and mice who come from below to tuck into the fruit lying above their burrows. We have had a sufficient harvest of the crop so we are happy to share with the other residents of our garden.

There are still several insects to be seen in the garden including bees, wasps and the occasional butterfly. I spotted a red admiral only yesterday in the vegetable garden.

I have tulip bulbs to plant in pots on the terrace and several dozen wallflowers to fill the bed beside our gateway. It is good to be thinking of spring and what one will be growing or changing next year.   SB

Explore the Stour Valley with Suffolk Cottage Holidays

As winter approaches, our thoughts may turn now to winter breaks and next year’s summer holidays. This blog post is written by writer Gill Bendall. Gill writes for Suffolk Cottage Holidays (a festival sponsor) and its parent business The Original Cottage Company, as well as writing and editing for a number of national and local magazines. She is the owner of the Coastal Guide. She regularly sails her yacht on the River Stour and knows the area well. 

The River Stour Festival has highlighted the history and importance of the mighty watercourse that marks much of the border between Suffolk and Essex, and celebrated its role as a vital transport route, essential to the economy of East Anglia and the lifeblood for many towns and villages.

But it’s also thrown the spotlight on an area that’s much-loved as a holiday bolthole, a place where those who want to spend time immersed in rural idyll can unwind in the countryside, towns and villages immortalised by a number of internationally-acclaimed artists.

For evidence look no further than Constable Country, so-called because it was the setting for some of the ‘chocolate-box’ scenes painted by John Constable (1776-1837) who, as a schoolboy, would have crossed the river and walked through the meadows from East Bergholt to his grammar school at Dedham.

The subject matter Constable captured is still identifiable more than two centuries later, making holidays here a ‘must’ for those seeking peace and tranquility, and a world apart from some of Suffolk’s more bustling tourist locations. Walk in the footsteps of the great artist while enjoying a stay at The Old Chapel Annexe in Nayland (pictured below), an incredible piece of Suffolk history cleverly converted into self-catering accommodation.



Further upriver, Suffolk’s famous Wool Towns are inextricably linked to the River Stour and are additional holiday honeypots. Surrounded on three sides by water meadows and gently rolling hills, Sudbury is the largest, famous for its historic links to Thomas Gainsborough – he was born here, and the surrounding countryside inspired much of his work – and its beautiful blend civic buildings and private dwellings. Make the most of the setting with a riverside stroll or electric boat ride along the River Stour, and stay awhile in the comfort of a self-catering cottage courtesy of Suffolk Cottage Holidays.

A veritable picture of prettiness, Lavenham is famous for its woven blue broadcloth – once exported as far as Russia – and is known as England’s best-preserved medieval village. Once the 14th wealthiest town in the country, Lavenham is home to more than 160 listed buildings, some of them almost cartoon-like in their wonkiness. Right in the heart of town, Pilgrims (pictured below) is an utterly charming holiday cottage offering a perfect view over the building famed for its role as Godric’s Hollow in the Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows film.

For a getaway closer to the busy mouth of the River Stour, Suffolk Cottage Holidays’ sister-company Suffolk Secrets offers a beautiful barn conversion on the Shotley Peninsula. Lake Farm Barn (pictured below) at Holbrook is surrounded by well-groomed grounds and sleeps up to six people, while up to two well-behaved dogs are welcome too.


  • Rural retreats specialist Suffolk Cottage Holidays is part of the Original Cottages family of local holiday cottage letting agencies, all offering in-depth knowledge and an on-the-ground service to homeowners and holidaymakers across England and Wales. To find out more, call 01394 389189 or log on to the website.

Our Outstanding Landscape – now and the future

This blog post comes from Cathy Smith,  Communications, Funding & Development Officer of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project


The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley is an outstanding place, and it has been nationally designated too, helping us recognise that it has many special qualities for us today and for future generations.

The landscape of the Stour Valley with its vibrant communities and rich agricultural history has inspired generations of artists, writers and painters. As well as these strong cultural connections, the valley has abundant wildlife living in the mosaic of habitats along the river valley. Large numbers of visitors are drawn to appreciate and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside and explore its rich historical associations.

The River Stour is the heart, and I’d say soul, of the area. The main river and its tributaries touch every part of the area, and although you can’t always see it, the water course is life giving and a rich focus of activity for people and wildlife. The Stour Valley Path is a 60-mile walking route that also runs the length of the river from source to estuary, and a hike or stroll along the route will show you all it’s many wonders. The River Stour Festival is another great example highlighting the variety of cultural and natural events and activities that enhance our experiences.

But we must also look to the future.

When Defra wrote their 25 Year Environment Plan (Jan 2018) they included an announcement of a Designated Landscape Review. This Review, of both National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), will report back to Michael Gove in 2019. 2019 is also the 70th Anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. A fitting time to look once again at how your Essex & Suffolk AONBs are delivering local priorities too.

This week (20 October 2018) Defra began its public ‘Call for Evidence’. Everyone can – and should – submit comments to Defra, via their consultation pages, see their news report: The deadline is Tuesday 18 December 2018.

Nationally there are common themes across all the designated landscapes – including wildlife, land management, agriculture and recreation. We also have local priorities that we will take to the Review Advisory Panel about at our face-to-face, and when we submit our response to the consultation.

Here in the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley the AONB team and its Partnership is already delivering against the 25YEP, and we have a thriving agriculture sector, a healthy rural economy, beautiful landscapes and rich habitats for wildlife. Looking forward, we have pressure from infrastructure and building developments, a keen interest in further enhancing biodiversity through countryside management and the work of our wonderful volunteers, and we strongly believe that supporting our community groups with advice and grants can deliver great benefits locally.

We hope you get out as much as possible to enjoy our outstanding landscape soon and that being in the landscape will help you think about how we can all support it – conserve and enhance it – for many more generations to come!

Cathy Smith


October Garden Clippings

As autumn comes to the Stour Valley, SB tells us what’s happening in her garden on the banks of the River Stour. Many thanks to her for these interesting insights.

Autumn mornings can be breathtaking at sunrise when an early morning mist forms over the water meadows opposite us. The mist suspends above the river itself in low, wisp-like, endlessly moving shapes and rolls in dense swirls across the meadows, gently caressing, creating an ethereal curtain across the valley. The dark forms of the cattle can just be seen through the mist. Overhead the geese fly in formation accompanied by their constant calls to each other; a stirring sound of the wild. When the Canada geese return to the water meadows it is a sure sign autumn has arrived. There are Greylag geese amongst them too.

Before I write about happenings in the garden I must just tell you of an experience I had when out walking my dog. We were walking up a tramline in a nearby sugar beet field when I spotted a worm on the surface of the soil. Attached to the tail of the worm was a black beetle, which was pulling with all its might, twisting onto its back with the effort at times. The worm did not seem to be particularly distressed and proceeded on its way slowly but surely being stretched out by the beetle tugging in the opposite direction! I watched with morbid fascination as the worm continued to elongate. All of a sudden the small end section of the worm broke off and the beetle scuttled off with its prize! The worm continued on its way seemingly unperturbed.

The walnut tree is being raided by land and air! The grey squirrels are busy doing what squirrels do and no doubt we will have walnut seedlings popping up all over the garden as usual! The air raids are by the rooks who fly off with a walnut firmly in their beaks back to the rookery.

The ivy flowers have been literally abuzz with insects of all sizes including bees, butterflies, ladybirds and hornets. Ivy is such an important food source at this time of year and obviously greatly enjoyed by so many insects.

We planted a spindle tree in the spring, Euonymus europaeus ‘red cascade’ (pictured), by the sluice gates and despite its small size it produced several stunning fruits for us and gave us a hint of what is to come when it matures.

The cygnets are dispersing, only three now come to the back lawn on a regular basis. A swan was seen forcefully attacking one of the cygnets in the river, I am not sure if it was the parent or an interloper. The cygnets are “encouraged” to leave by the parents in due course, so perhaps this process has begun. In all my years living here I have never witnessed a cygnet flying for the first time. This morning, I did see one “running” up the river, flapping its wings in the manner of a swan launching itself but it sank back down onto the river. A trial run, perhaps!


September Garden Clippings

This blog post welcomes back SB with more Garden Clippings from her garden on the banks of the River Stour, with more wonderful insights into the wildlife living on the river.


The much-needed rain finally came.  The water butts have filled up and the hosepipes are stored away in the garden shed.  The lawns seem to be growing at such a pace, making up for lost time perhaps!  The weeds are following suit.  My dahlias are now blooming joyfully and add a splash of colour to the vegetable garden.  I do have a problem with large numbers of earwigs inside and eating the flowers this year though.  I have added a few upside-down flower pots stuffed with straw on bamboo canes, in the hope of luring them away from the flower heads.  

The duck weed has now started to disperse.  The kingfisher is once again regularly seen back on his favoured spot in the millpool sitting on a branch of the fallen willow, two or three feet above the surface of the water.  One must always pause and enjoy the fleeting spectacle of this fabulous bird.  The five cygnets are now fully grown and are displaying hints of a paler hue in their plumage.  Four remain together, usually with an adult but one is bolder and is often seen asleep, alone, on the back lawn while the others are elsewhere.  Yet another brood of moorhens are scuttling about!  The surviving member of the last brood is now independent.  There are four chicks, still very tiny and one looked very poorly a couple of days ago.  It was plaintively calling and extremely weak, unable to stand, when I spotted it on the back lawn.  The mother did come to it and was fussing around but whether she managed to revive it with food or not I do not know.  Sadly, I fear not.

My greenhouse is full of tomato plants and peppers.  The tomato crop has been the best I have ever had and there are still many more hopefully to ripen.  They are all cherry tomatoes.  Outside in one of the raised beds I have grown some plum tomatoes which are producing a good crop.  I noticed that one or two of the greenhouse tomatoes had been partially eaten and then I spotted the culprit – a large caterpillar residing in a leaf.  It is the caterpillar of the Bright-line brown-eye moth, also known as the tomato moth.   With such a large crop I was happy to share the bounty with the caterpillar!

We leave logs dotted around the garden to provide habitat and in places for sitting on.  When mowing the pergola bank it is necessary to roll one of the logs we sit on to one side.  When doing this recently a common lizard was revealed underneath!  Very quickly the log was rolled back into position and, I hasten to add, it will not be used as a seat in the future!  SB


Garden Clippings

This blog post comes from SB who lives on the banks of the River Stour. She regularly writes about the wildlife and changing seasons on the river for the local parish magazine and we are delighted that she has agreed to share her “Garden Clippings” with us on the River Stour Festival blog. I’ll let her tell you about her beautiful garden.

Our garden is situated on the banks of the river Stour at Great Henny on the site of the old watermill. It comprises of an island containing a large pond accessed by a bridge spanning the sluice gates. There is also a wooded area on the island and an orchard. The river forks at the top of the garden forming the island, one fork continues as the main river the other flows through the sluice gates into what was the mill pond for the mill.   The flow exits at the bottom of the mill pond back into the main river. Our house is located beside the mill pond and the main river runs past the back of the house.

Adjacent to the section of river flowing into the mill pond is an expanse of lawn planted out with ornamental trees known as Maggies. Below this area coming down towards the house is our vegetable garden which then leads into our formal front garden. A pergola covered in roses and wisteria runs the length of the vegetable garden and above the path alongside the mill pond leading to Maggies and the Island. Behind the house and adjacent to the main river is our back lawn.

We garden with wildlife in mind and therefore the area around the house is planted in a formal way with the emphasis as far as possible on bee friendly plants but as we move away from the house we focus on encouraging the river banks to grow up with native plants, leave piles of branches, logs etc. gathered from around the garden for shelter and generally trying to create a rich habitat but still retaining a garden feel.

We hope you enjoy reading our garden clippings.



Garden Clippings

 As I write the sun is beating down and the temperature is close to thirty degrees, yet again! What a summer and what a challenging time in the garden! We have several ornamental trees planted on ‘Maggies’, our large area of lawn, some are now showing signs of stress and also on the Island which is surprising when it is obviously surrounded by water! A Catalpa tree, of quite a good size, has really suffered with one branch shedding its leaves completely and another starting to wilt. We have had to pump water out of the river to keep it going and fingers-crossed it will survive as it is a magnificent tree. Watering trees has become a weekly event with buckets being lugged across from the river to wherever it is needed.   We do not have access to mains piped water in all areas of the garden, so a hose is not an option beyond part of the vegetable garden.

The river is getting very clogged up with duck weed in places. This is not good news for the kingfishers, which we haven’t seen for some time now, as their hunting spots get reduced due to lack of visibility. We have kept the mill pond relatively free of duck weed by making a channel into the main river through an area of Norfolk reeds, where the duck weed now flows through and out on the current. The dead willow which blew down into the millpond during a gale provides perfect access to the water for many birds. A quick glance out of the window and I can see a pigeon having a drink from one of the branches just above the water surface and a couple of moorhens, balanced precariously on smaller branches making good use of their large green feet, are pecking at the duck weed caught up in the submerged branches of the tree. The pair of swans and five remaining cygnets use the channel to access the mill pond and they also feed on the duck weed, seemingly sucking it up with relish.

There are a couple of late broods of moorhen chicks which are regularly seen on the back lawn. Little balls of black fluff darting about. A couple of days ago I happened to glance out of the kitchen window and saw a heron swoop in, the moorhen parents immediately attacked the heron with karate type kicks aimed at the towering threat to their chicks. I think a combination of their fearless defending of their young and my hammering on the window scared the heron off for a meal elsewhere.

We are thrilled to have two hedgehogs regularly coming to feed beneath the bird feeder outside the kitchen window. We spotted them eating some mealworms I had put out on the ground for blackbirds, robins etc. I purchased some hedgehog food from the pet shop and they now come every evening for mealworms, hedgehog pellets and a good drink of water from a low dish easily accessible to them and any thirsty birds.

One of my favourite pastimes is to stand by the pillbox on the island and watch all the insects coming and going in the wild riverbank area beside the millpond. It mainly comprises of purple thistle flowers and an eye level large area of hemp agrimony interspersed with nettles. It is a magnet for a myriad variety of bees, particularly the thistle flowers from which only the rear end of the bee is visible as it burrows inbetween the numerous narrow petals. Butterflies including comma and peacock flitter about and alight to feed on the flowers and the air is full of dragonflies swooping and hunting. Large brown hawker dragonflies, like small helicopters whirr past, darting and diving after insects. The brilliant blue and green of the damselflies gracefully twist and turn. There is so much life in just one section of our wild garden.