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.
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.