curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Environment (Page 1 of 7)

our built and natural world

Here’s to a new season of unruly gardening

Here we are at the start of a new season. Though of course the promise of a new season has been poking through the ground since Christmas. Now there are snowdrops everywhere I look but they are being nudged and jostled by bright yellow sploshes of narcissi. Bluebells and wild garlic are racing to catch up. Which season are we in, exactly?

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Standing against the storm

Another storm brewing, I’m teetering on the edge of despair when up comes a cheery message from Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. The new guide book is out and we can find our entry online too.  I wrote the Pond Garden entry but now I’m wondering if I got it right…

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Look this way: the glass is half full

A proper winter morning for a change. I’m birdwatching by the window with a cooling coffee. There’s a cluster of blue tits on the birch tree feeder, chaffinches catching crumbs on the ground. One robin, two blackbirds, three red squirrels frisky in the snow. Sights for sore eyes and sad hearts this grim December when there’s precious little seasonal comfort and joy.  But look, look! There’s a nuthatch again. Is it the one that likes to pose?

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Blowing in the wind

I have a windmill in my backyard and I am very fond of it. On calm days swallows have been known to sit on it. When the wind blows hard across the fields we know our batteries are brimming with beautiful clean energy. But oddly enough, with all this power surging freely into our house, we are now much more reluctant to waste energy than we used to be in the old days of electricity bills. Owning a windmill can change your outlook on life.

This was the message I wanted to get across when BBC Scotland came to call but it seems our wires were crossed. 

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The Pond Garden in June

Blue skies again. Sunshine sparkling on the pond. A friendly breeze ruffles new leaves and turns the wind turbine merrily. What kind of killjoy would complain about the promise of yet another glorious summer day?

It does seem perverse. How often have I moaned about waking to endless cold, wet midsummer days? Now, we open the door to Mediterranean mornings – it feels heavenly but strangely disturbing. Heavenly if only it wasn’t for daily visions of hellishly soaring temperatures elsewhere. And is there another heatwave on our own horizon?

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Rebellion in the garden

“What,” I asked, “are we doing here with a lifetime’s work ahead as we rebuild a derelict cottage and learn how to restore 10 acres of silted up pond and rundown woodland?”

Looking back, at forty-something we were mere babes in the wood. But I had an answer: “To understand why, you need to see the pond on a frosty winter afternoon, or catch sight of the heron fishing in the sluice stream, to find a bank of primroses above a pile of rusting corrugated iron, or sit on a starry summer night with family and friends round a bonfire in the new clearing while bats flicker above the ghosts of the old neighbourhood dump.”

I wrote that nearly thirty years ago. As journalists often do, I dug the words from both heart and head. 

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Bye bye blackbird…and our Edinburgh urban jungle

Through the window I saw a robin on the bird table, two blackbirds underneath, a grey squirrel in the white stemmed birch, four fat pigeons and three pretty doves squabbling on the ground.  If we had a pear tree perhaps there would have been a partridge in it.  A record-breaking cold spell brought hungry wildlife into our back garden. That’s something to celebrate just a short walk from Edinburgh city centre.  Oddly, it added to my sense of loss as we packed to leave our old urban jungle home.

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Slowing the flow

Sustainable flood management enables communities to adapt to the realities of climate change. Restoring natural defences against flooding brings social, economic and environmental benefits to the  whole community.

Pity the people of Somerset Levels. The last thing they need as the weather report threatens more rain and gales, is a rush of politicians anxious to pour blame on the other party.  And they certainly don’t need some smart-arse copywriter at the other end of the country blowing the dust off an old manual on natural flood management in Scotland.

[This was first published in  2014, reposting in August 2022 as climate extremes demand we start to learn from nature] Continue reading

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