Tag Archives: Wales

Back to autumn at Cadnant

In the spirit of experimentation – and optimism, and hoping that time has worked its magic on WordPress – I’m having another go at posting about Plas Cadnant in autumn. (Er, incidentally, time had not. But it’s a Safari glitch, only affects inserting a space after a photo gallery – at which point it wipes the entire post, arrrrrrggghhhh – and everything seems to be working in Firefox. Fingers crossed. Oh, no it isn’t. It’s something to do with image galleries, but I know no fear and at least in Firefox it only wipes out the gallery.)

Right, plants. Gardens. Sunshine.


I had planned a second visit, just to catch the last of the garden before it shut its doors for the winter – tomorrow is the last day of opening – but work got in the way. Boo and also hiss. I’ll have to want until the snowdrops, and hope that this winter’s inevitable storms don’t undo all the fantastic repair work which has been happening at Cadnant since the devastation of last December. Personally, I think it’s going to be better than ever, and is almost there.

It was a beautiful autumn day when we visited, just perfect. A little chill in the air, but not enough to stop us having lunch outside in the sun. And some of the plants seemed to be basking too, taking in the last certain warmth.


Of course the stone walls – the top part of the garden is surrounded by high walls as well as being broken up by lower ones – do help to retain the heat, and they also give the plants a beautiful backdrop.

I’m not really an aster fan, but I think I may be changing.

For me, asters – or to be precise, Michaelmas Daisies – are inevitably associated with the return to school and an extremely boring harvest festival to which I went under protest, and clutching a giant bunch of stinky, shedding, purple, you-guessed-its. Ergh. BUt I can see their appeal – just not the purple ones. Well, not the paler purple ones.

Another thing I have a problem with is the hydrangea. Or rather the hydrangea I had in my garden until I emitted a great shriek and finally gave in to P’s desire to mattock it out (the root was about as big as the house and the resulting new bed is metres and metres wide and deep). It did not pay its way. The ones at Cadnant, however, do. Even the paler ones like mine:


Oh, sigh.

The woodland at Cadnant is what I really, really love, though. It’s like a tropical forest down there… no, maybe it’s more like… oh, I don’t know. But there are enormous and beautiful tree ferns and gunners, and water and huge trees and mosses and lichens and odd fungi at this time of year and remarkably few visitors (but then it was a Wednesday).

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to attempt to add another gallery of photographs, so I’ll just leave with another few shots at full size, which neither browser seems to find objectionable. Cadnant is so worth visiting, and by the time we came out the car park – ok, field – was chocka. Somehow the garden just seems to absorb people; until emerging we had no idea it was so busy.

geranium on tree

Yes, it’s a hardy geranium growing on a tree. There were many.


Stunning colour combinations with the bright red and the almost acid green behind, and a farewell from Plas Cadnant (and a bit of log store envy).

Cadnant walls

Incidentally, their containers are always good – casual and relaxed, but lovely. I’ve got container envy too.


The winter of my discontent

Grumble, grumble, grumble. Guess what the weather is doing? Again?

Everything is wet. Even the logs stacked in the greenhouse are wet. I’m wet. The Hell Hound of Harlech got wet. P got wet, though despite this he still decided to go tree climbing with a bow saw and take a branch off the cherry. Next Door’s Cat got so wet that he actually went to his real home and has been looking at me smugly from behind a window.

And it’s been windy. First, wind off the land:


and now wind – big wind – off the sea, as is more usual. Just retrieved one wheelie bin from near the car park, and the other from behind a lamppost. They were wet.

But I have done one thing: got the spuds chitting. They began sprouting quite lavishly, so I hauled them out, told them off, rubbed away the weak white shoots that always make me think of Gollum and put them in egg boxes on a windowsill. If it doesn’t stop raining in time I can always throw them at Next Door’s Cat. Or P. Or the HH of H (the most likely candidate).

A few things are out. They’re battered, but they’re out. My first daff, for instance, and some snowdrops, and some crocuses. And even…


Oh, all right, I took this last year. The light levels are so low that all my photographs of the hellebores this year have been shite – but they’re there, and they’re flowering nicely. When you can actually see.

And I have been doing a bit of planning, looking at all the things that are coming up because it’s so unseasonably warm (we have had one good frost, but I wouldn’t mind more, honest). There are a load of Verbena bonarensis seedlings which I’m going to move into one bed, and there are foxgloves everywhere. Time, I think, for a little selective meadow-editing. A couple of years ago there were foxgloves in the meadow, so I was hoping they’d be back this year – but I can’t see any evidence so far. Time to do some moving, I think. I know this is lovely,


and, believe you me, I’m really looking forward to a seeing the meadow in its glory again, but I think a few foxgloves would be a good addition. They looked fab when they appeared spontaneously, so I’m going to give them a hand. Better that than throwing them on the compost (I have a lot of foxgloves).

However at the moment it’s a bit wet…


Tree following: November, and farewell to the hawthorn

Oh boy, is it November or what…

I looked at the weather forecast and decided to photograph my tree a little early. About a week early, in fact, and it’s just as well I did. The wind is storm force (Force 9, to be specific, though it is lessening a little); the rain is horizontal and the clouds are so low, despite the wind, that I can see about a hundred metres. Lovely.

A week ago it was a completely different story:


I don’t expect any of these are still there now. They may be in England, they may have been blown as far as Norway, but I’m pretty certain they won’t be here. I’m not going up to check, mind – the little car park I use was so squishy a day ago that it might as well be under water (it probably is, now) and the path I would take as an alternative to driving is mud. Sorry, that should be Mud. It definitely deserves a cap M. And this is essentially why, although I’ve enjoyed ‘following’ my hawthorn, I will pick a tree a little closer to follow next year.

Anyway, here is my best-beloved, looking lovely in the sun of 1 November:

hawthorn and dolmen

When I started following the hawthorn I said that the tree’s association with the dolmen did seem to give it a special significance, and I had more confirmation of that. This was, of course, the day after 31 October, Halloween, Samhain, call it what you will – and in the foreground you can just see a blackish area between a few stones, directly below the white spot on the capstone, right at the edge of the shot. It was the remains of a fire, evidently recent because there was just a hint of warmth to it. Not surprising, though hawthorns are more traditionally associated with Beltane. But I expect the tomb is the draw… or, of course, it could just have been fellow archaeologists up there to check any solar alignment.

So what has changed since my last despatch (I didn’t make October as I was away)? Well, there are now no leaves whatsoever, and the haws are patchy – some parts are still covered; others have none, or only very shrivelled ones. Exposure again: I spent some time just leaning against the hawthorn this time and realised, for the first time, that the pressure of the wind can be felt quite strongly, even on the thick branches – and that’s why it has developed so many trunks and roots, I guess.

There are signs of a lot of life in the tree – or perhaps that should be sign of a lot of spiders using it. The low angle of the sun really emphasised that, though it was very difficult to show just how bedecked the tree was with single filaments and whole webs:

spider webs

The sheep are back, rather more obvious and considerably more noisy:


They’re also considerably less flighty – possibly because the lambs are now huge, possibly because they’ve got used to me (don’t laugh; sheep can recognise a significant number of humans – there’s been academic research into this. Really). Once again, though, I noticed how much more battered this hawthorn was than its neighbours and decided to take a brief tour around some of its companions.

A little further down the hill is an Iron Age hut circle. There are hawthorns which guard the entrance:

entrance hawthorns

and they’ve been stripped of leaves too, despite being in a more shetered position. But notice the oak at the top? Here’s another shot of the whole thing:


All the oaks are like this, still with leaves. I’m intrigued, mind, by the fact the upper leaves are still green; without really understanding in detail, I’d have instinctively expected it to be the other way round. Particularly when you consider the exposure element (oh, yes – the dip in the middle, behind the oak, is the hut circle – it’s huge, would probably have housed an extended family plus some animals).

Quite a few of the trees are ivied, and when I say ‘ivied’ I mean it with a capital letter again:


And the tree still lives.

The gorse is just beginning to flower again, in parts,


though a lot of it is being cleared by the farmers. It had got very overgrown, and it will be back, and so I can’t really lament the extensive cutting back – especially as it is making it a lot easier to see some of the extensive archaeology up here. I’d not really realised how much the gorse had grown up until I took another look at the aerial photograph in the March tree-following post. You can still see grass in that, amongst the gorse. Until the hacking back, you could barely see any; just gorse, and you couldn’t push through it. So what is there, underneath all that? An irregular field system which is probably Neolithic, as is the dolmen; lots of clearance cairns and burnt mounds, some of which are very old, Bronze Age; some old terracing, maybe Neolithic; an old trackway, ditto; traces of huts, both prehistoric and Roman period; lots and lots of medieval stuff. And  the old pack-horse routes, of course.

It’s a wonderful landscape, a scheduled ancient monument, and I’m very glad I decided to visit it regularly to follow this tree. But visiting a tree a bit further away – even though it’s not exactly miles and miles away – has also been problematic; I’ve not observed the hawthorn as frequently as I did the birch from last year, for the simple reason that I could pop out of the kitchen door and be at the birch within, oh, twenty steps. So I will go back to following an even more local tree next year. What, or where, I’ve not decided (but it probably won’t involve encounters with feral goats, unlike this one).

And in the meanwhile, farewell sheepies:


I’m up here a lot, so I know I’ll be back. But I definitely got more out of tree following my birch -as a tree following exercise, that is, as opposed to archaeology following, plant hunting, goat avoiding, lichen photographing, mud squelching… oh, hang on, I think that last one would apply with the birch at the mo. Hm.

Apparently some people in this small country are enjoying sun and t-shirt weather, right now. All I can say is this is coming your way. Get your wellies out. And you’ll need vests.

PS: Huge thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy who has hosted the tree following meme for the last three years, and hello to Pat at The Squirrelbasket, who is the new host. It’s brilliant.

Oh, what a garden – Plas Cadnant

I know, I should be tree following, but I forgot. Zooooomed up there for a quick look, not much change except fewer leaves. But I have visited the most lovely garden, and it has lots of trees in it, even if I’m not following them specifically…

Excuses, excuses. Understandable? Look at this:

Plas Cadnant 1

This is Plas Cadnant on Anglesey, just over the Menai Straits from Bangor. I had a business meeting, but since the web designer concerned also happens to be a keen gardener (hello, Janet aka Plantalicious, whose post on the day was considerably more prompt and rather more professional), guess where we decided to meet up? Guess how long we spent on business? Yup, about five minutes. Possibly less than we spent on cake. Certainly much, much, much less than we spent on the garden.

It’s stunning, and it’s right up my street, and I couldn’t (as is obvious) stop taking photographs. The planting, particularly in the less-wild parts of the woodland areas, is so intelligently unobtrusive and so much in harmony with the extraordinary setting that it blew me away. I also love ferns, which helps.


and rocks, and mosses, and silent pools reflecting the planting, and lichens…


Did I mention tree ferns?

tree ferns

Huge tree ferns. Tree ferns you can walk under easily.

Then there’s colour. Colour, bright in contrast with the formal planting:


autumn colours in the shade of the woodland,

baby leaves

and which are even more startlingly bright when backlit:

acer colour

I don’t know, I give up. Plas Cadnant almost left me speechless – suffice it to say that I upgraded my entry into a season ticket, and that we’ve already made arrangements to meet here at the end of October.

In the meanwhile – and do visit Plas Cadnant’s website as well as Plantalicious for more actual, real, hard information as opposed to the blogging equivalent of someone going ‘WOWZER!’ – here is a gallery of some of the things that had such an impact on me. Wonderful place.

PS: The cakes are pretty good too!

Haws on my hawthorn – tree following, September

It’s been a madly busy summer but things are finally beginning to calm down, on every level except the weather. We have had some gorgeous days, though – really autumnal ones, too, with mist gathering in the dune slacks first thing and a definite nip in the air. I took my chance on one of them and went up to visit ‘my’ hawthorn. It was much windier up at the top (dur – logical) though the sea was surprisingly calm, but clouds were beginning to gather.


There was a marked drop in temperature when the sun disappeared behind the clouds, but there were some splendid seascapes as the sunlight was blocked and revealed: quite stunning and impossible to photograph. There is no doubt whatsoever that the views of the landscape up here were critical to the Neolithic people who set up the chambered tomb (right next to the hawthorn and vaguely visible about as that sort of lump in the middle); study after study has shown how clear the alignments of such monuments are, and how rooted they are in the environment. Ahem.

Despite all these foreshadowings of autumn, I was still quite shocked to see the huge change in the hawthorn, at least on the windward side. Leaves, what leaves?

haws but no leaves

Well, OK, there are some – but very few. The landward side of the tree is a different story but, though the leaves are hanging on the branches somewhat more, they are still very tattered and brown. I didn’t think it had really been that stormy in the month’s gap since my last visit – perhaps this is a consequence of the stormy weather even earlier in the season?

Unsurprisingly, the haws on the windward side are showing signs of battering too:


but there are plenty of them. You only need one to produce viable seed and survive – now, I wonder if I could… hm. Well, it worked with the birch; I’d love to have a child of this hawthorn. I must have a crack at it. There’s an excellent short video from Monty Don with a useful tip on checking viability – better get back up there before the birds scoff the lot.

Some of the lichen is peeling off in great chunks, but a lot still remains.


I’d been wondering about the peeling maybe having, er, assistance – and this time I found evidence:


There are hairs caught in it.

Cows are kept up here, but this year it’s been mostly sheep (and the occasional wild billy goat). This hair is too high for either sheep or goats unless they rear way up, plus it’s the wrong colour for these sheep. There was plenty of dried cowshit around as well, so we may have a clue. Scraching? I wonder – I’d have said it was too low and branchy and cluttered under the hawthorn for cows to be comfortable, but I don’t know cows like I know sheep (and I have no desire to know the wild goats at all; far too chancy and if I want something temperamental and male and hairy and smelly in the garden I know where to find it anyway).

Looking at the tree again made me think about it in a completely new way.

I had a art tutor once who made us draw the spaces between things – some of us thought it was mad, some of us thought it was interesting, and some of us went ‘wow, man’ and fell off our stools. I fell, boringly maybe, into the middle category – and I’ve never forgotten what he said about spaces. Looking at the hawthorn against the temporarily blue sky I felt a strong desire to draw the spaces:

So now I want to get up there with a sketch pad (and a bag for some haws). It’s not raining, and today is set aside for cleaning the house, so what am I waiting for, I wonder? And it’s not just the shapes; it’s the colours as well, and the particularly autumnal quality of the light:


Fat chance of being able to capture that. And, as a gardener, I’m not sure I should be given bracken that sort of attention anyway. Ripping it out brutally sort of attention, yes.

It’s been very interesting following a tree that isn’t immediately easy for me to visit, and I will see it through to the end of the year, of course: I love this tree. However, I just haven’t been able to give it the sort of close attention that I gave to the downy birch in the garden last year, and I miss that. I’ve not spotted so much insect life, for instance – does that mean it isn’t there, or am I just not seeing it? (Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as archaeology dons are very fond of reminding their students.) OK, there’s life which I wouldn’t want to have in my garden – the wild goats and cattle, mainly, and the picnickers I found up there one time – but I miss the shield bugs and the interesting butterflies. I shall have to think about this for next year…



Belated tree (and path) following – August 2015

I did it, I did it, I got up the hill and followed my hawthorn (er, that makes it sound like an ent, and me rather like either Pippin or Merry trailing after Treebeard). It is beautifully in leaf, even if it isn’t ripping apart any rogue wizard’s tower. I’m not quite clear about damage its roots may have done to the dolmen next to it, but that’s been there for probably well over 4,000 years and I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon, ancient tree or no ancient tree.


And I did manage to spend some time looking at the tree more closely, without interruption from sheep, mountain goats, tourists asking what I’m doing, the farmer asking what I’m doing, or any attention from cows, which is something of a result. For me, anyway; not sure how the hawthorn felt. But I am too late for Loose and Leafy‘s ‘tree following’ box for this meme, or am I? Hey ho!

The seaward side of the hawthorn is quite notably damaged by the bizarre weather we’ve had this year. Even the new growth looks mangled – we’ve had storms worthy of September, and there is absolutely nothing between the tree and the winds from the sea. Here’s a new shoot on the seaward side, followed by an equivalent on the landward side:

(just click on any of these paired images for the full view). The one is all crumpled and brown and dry and papery and shrivelled, and the other is not. The one on the protected side – note the dolmen in the background – has a little bit of browning at the tips of the leaves, but that’s all. The same applies to the haws:

There’s quite a difference. Of course it’s predictable, but I was still interested to see how marked it is.

But we are dealing with an ancient tree here, and one in a highly exposed position. The damage, it has just occurred to me, is the tree profile shaping itself in action, as it were – growth on the landward side, increased vulnerability and damage on the seaward side. The damage can be quite something on the tree as a whole, too – it’s in the path of the Irish Sea gales and we have had some whoppers recently, including the 120mph gusts of the winter before last. So it’s not surprising that things like this have happened:


But how about all this new growth? Most impressive.

And then there’s damage just casused by age and sheep attention and things that bore into wood already weakened by storms,

and which inevitably results in an extremely old dolmen-guarding tree which does sometimes appear to be more out of a fantasy novel than reality:


But I can’t ignore the landscape of which the tree is part, even without tourists, sheep, goats, cows, passing farmers who all think I’m mad anyway. And on the fantasy-novel theme, to quote Tolkien ‘the road goes ever on and on / down from the door where it began’:

roadwayThe single-track road that passes the hawthorn and the dolmen runs down to Llety Lloegr, the ‘England shelter’, where it goes over an old stone bridge, Pont Fadog. It was a spur of the main drove road to the markets in England; now it peters out into a footpath, part of which is running over the hill in the middle distance.

That’s a track which branches off; it used to lead directly south and down to the Mawddach estuary, passing the manganese workings which were part of the economy of the area in the past. It still does, but now it’s the start of the southern section of  the Taith Ardudwy, or Ardudwy Way, and is clearly signposted – if you click on the link and then follow the links to the central and southern sections, you’ll see just where I am – or that should be where I am when I get fed up and need a breather. Sometimes I’ve thrown all my bits of paper into the air, packed a lunch and walked up there before going back and working in the afternoon.

Now there’s a thought!

What a difference a few feet makes – tree following, June

I’m about to go away – garden sitters have been briefed and shown where the watering cans are – so I’ve been rushing about. We’ve also had some seriously odd weather, as have most of us, so what with that and the rushing, I’ve not been near my hawthorn.

I had hoped to get up there and catch the opening of the blossom. I thought, you see, that it would be fading by 7 June, and anyway I’ll be away then. But I only made it up there yesterday, and I found this:


Not exactly covered, is it? Was it, perhaps, over? I walked round to the other side and approached the tree. No, not over – many buds were still to open. Some flowers which had opened were damaged, but most were still firmly shut.


The ones which were open were attracting attention from flying things which zipped past me, helped no doubt by the sudden increase in temperature (from single figures to the giddy height of 14 degrees, mind – I was still in my fleece and walking boots).

hawthorn blossom

Those flowers which were open were also a bit battered, or looking rather hesitant and fragile.

I turned round and was really surprised. Though ‘my’ tree is the largest and oldest of the hawthorns up here by the dolmen, it is surrounded by others. It is also a tiny bit higher than the others, and that – I assume – is probably the main reason why the others looked like this:

another hawthorn

Is it snow, or is it blossom? While mine looked like this:

where's the blossom?

It’s not age, or I don’t think it is – because my followed tree has plenty to come. It’s just not doing it yet. It’s waiting, still doing the equivalent of wearing  fleece and walking boots. It’s not casting a clout either.

And in the meanwhile its neighbours are amazing:


It’s supposed to be warming up significantly this weekend, so I am hoping that the venerable hawthorn I’ve decided to follow will catch up – but the only significant difference between it and its fellows is a few feet in altitude. And when I say ‘a few feet’, it’s maybe two feet – just as exposed, but that little bit higher. And the trees on the landward side of the lane, which are another couple of feet higher up still, are in the same state as my tree. It would never have occurred to me that such an apparently insignificant difference could have such an impact among so close a bunch of neighbours.

Wildlife? Well, no goats this time, and no sheep either – they’ve been moved higher up. The usual ravens shouting their heads off, buzzards circling high above and calling … and the deeper call of, could it be, a peregrine? Then I spotted the peregrine’s unmistakeable flight pattern and shape, and watched it for a few minutes before it shot downwards like a guided missile and disappeared out of view, Rabbit, possibly. Plenty of those about.

And the wildflowers are benefitting from the sheep move too. The bluebells are still out up here; yellow tormentil is starting to speckle the grass; the foxgloves are heading skywards and there are some small umbellifers. I get almost as confused with umbellifers as I do with ferns, so I’m throwing this one open:

any guesses?

Could be any one of about twelve things, I think. Short (could be the conditions), small – flowerhead about 5cm across, max, generally less. Pretty, undoubtedly.