We drive slowly up the lane to Pond Cottage and we welcome visitors with signs asking them to do the same. Politely, of course. Slow down please for red squirrels, roe deer and sleepy toads (no kidding). Now I think we need to add a new one. Watch out for red admirals feasting drunkenly on fallen fruit.

It’s been an exhilarating sight during the September heatwave, a happy antidote to disturbing stories of climate disruption. “Good news for a change,” says my son arriving on a hot September afternoon. The young family had just driven through a cloud of butterflies hovering over the lane where a blackthorn tree has dropped a rich litter of red and yellow fruits.

I’ve taken pictures of the red fruits [bullaces, or wild plums, are fruit of the blackthorn tree] but it’s actually the yellow fruits that seem to attract most butterflies. So many it’s difficult to count. And annoyingly difficult to photograph. The other day I sat beneath the hedge watching them – perhaps 18 or 20 – fluttering almost drunkenly from one juicy fruit to another. One landed a little leerily on my shoe, seemingly taking a break before returning to the admiral’s boozy bounty.

It is cheering to watch the abundance in a year of almost relentlessly depressing news of disappearing species. I hadn’t seen many butterflies around the pond this growing season apart from a few cabbage whites and a painted lady or two. But the red admirals have been out in force for the last few weeks, and on our lane they are sucking up every last drop of juice.

A welcome crowd

They join a welcome crowd of different creatures feeding on nuts, berries, seeds and insects around the cottage. We are still restoring beds and borders after last year’s disruptive building works but birds, bees, bats, squirrels, and less visible creepy crawlies don’t seem to mind the mess. In fact the garden, wetland and woodland are perhaps unusually busy at the moment.

Slow toads crossing: one of the signs on the Pond Garden lane asking visitors to drive slowly: photo Fay Young

Yesterday evening we startled three young roe deer as we rounded the corner on our way home. Last week, Ray saw a young hare in the fern garden. At breakfast this morning I watched four young red squirrels chasing each other round the birch tree feeder, seeing off a hopeful young magpie in the process. A tree creeper on the scots pine and beneath it a couple of fat rabbits foraging among foxglove seedlings (we could do without the rabbits but they do add to the appearance of pastoral plenty).

Jays screech in the beechwood. Our swan family is at the sluice patiently reminding us they are still here – last night’s welcome rain washed away some of ugly green algae that has covered the pond and their feathers for several weeks and it’s wonderful to watch how much the swans enjoy washing in clear water (SEPA asks me to send a sample of the slime so they can confirm if it’s the blue-green stuff or something less harmful, an interesting challenge for the week ahead.)

In other words, we’re a wild garden adapting to the challenges of climate change: – mulching, replanting, learning from plants and wildlife. There’s a lot of goodness stored in the ground beneath trees and hedges and we aim to add to it. That’s the message I hope to get across as we update our Pond Garden listing in Scotland’s Gardens Scheme guidebook 2024. The new year always starts in October!

PS: we’re delighted to meet garden visitors any time of year, just contact us through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme or fill in the Contact Form. You’re very welcome.

A blue and white bowl full of gleaming red bullaces, the 'wild plum' fruit of the blackthorn tree, a great crop in 2023: photo Fay Young.