Six on Saturday: Solstice, Storks, Scarlet Pimpernel and Rain-battered roses

This Monday will be the longest day of the year, the midsummer solstice, when the UK gets almost 17 hours of daylight. Earlier this week I was driving west on the A303, and just after the ‘solstice’ service station, Stonehenge appears by the roadside. I like this, and I don’t like it. One on hand it’s nice to see the old stones as you drive by, but also it seems irreverent to the landscape that such a big, noisy road cuts through the site.

A view of Stonehenge from the A303. (This picture was taken last year when I was a passenger)

I was driving back from Knepp, where we filmed part 10 of Wood for the Trees, our series about UK forests. Knepp is a ‘rewilding’ site, and runs wildland safaris, where you can see how the biodiversity on this land has increased since they stopped farming intensively. Everyone goes on about the amazing white storks on the site, and yes they are amazing:

White stork at Knepp

…but I was also thrilled to spot the elusive scarlet pimpernel.

Scarlet pimpernel, wildflowers at Knepp, growing on the bare soil that was turned over by the pigs.

To rewild the site, the owners fenced the perimeter of their enormous estate, and introduced herds of wild boar, long-horned cattle and deer, which are free to roam around the site. The owners produce a small quantity of high quality meat from these animals, and this along with the camping and site tours has been more financially successful than the previous efforts at farming. The land is ‘marginal’ and was always difficult to farm, and it’s possible that as agricultural subsidies change, more UK farmers will find that rewilding and regenerative farming is the more financially viable option for land that doesn’t easily grow crops. However – this is controversial. Rewilding a landscape leads to ‘scrub’ as hedgerows expand and brambles take over the fields, and this is not a landscape people like to see, traditionally it’s seen as ‘unkempt’ and wasteful. Perhaps as more of us begin to appreciate biodiversity we’ll see more of the attractive features of scrubland and untidy farms.

Speaking of unkempt land, here’s some snaps from the garden for this week’s six on saturday.

  1. The wildflower meadow after the rainstorm. It’s looking pretty battered, specially the ox-eye daisies, but I’m hopeful it will have perked up again in a few days.

2. The roses after the rain: Easy come, easy go, and most of these lovely roses are gone. It’ll be fine after a bit of a tidy up and there are still plenty of buds to come on this lovely rosebush.

3. Roses in a vase! I’m thankful that I’d picked a few garden blooms for a vase. At this time of year there’s a lot to choose from, and this bunch includes a few roses, peony, alstroemeria, as well as honeysuckle and pinks. The scent is spectacular.

Garden flowers gathered before the rainstorm

4. Wild roses: At Knepp, the scent from the wild roses was simply stunning. Taking in the scent of the wild roses as I listened to a turtle dove and nightingale singing was a very special moment that I’ll remember for a long while. The few we have in our garden are just as lovely, but not quite so abundant.

Wild rose, after the rainstorm.

5. My fifth highlight of the week is this little basket of sweet william, which sits by the front door. I love this plant and it’s strong scent and cheery blooms. I picked this up at the ‘mystery plant fair’ at the Mells Walled Garden back in April, and it’s doing very well.

Sweet william

6. My final selection for this week will have to be a quick pond update. The water lily which had 2.5 leaves when we bought it has begun to settle in to the pond, and I’m hoping for a flower or two this year. We’ve not seen Mr Frog for the past few days and I’m assuming he’s found somewhere nice to live and ignoring the possibility he got eaten by one of the neighbourhood predators, such as our cat.

The pond, with water lily and terracotta snail.

That’s it from me for this week, see more garden selections for Six on Saturday at the Propagator’s blog.

J x

7 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Solstice, Storks, Scarlet Pimpernel and Rain-battered roses

  1. nice to rewild some places, unfortunantly in america the creepies are buying up farmland I fear they will try to rewild it (over 200,000 acres of farms)or grow stuff for his lab meat. which will reduce the food even more than it is, and prices at the store are reflecting these changes. many poverty striken areas are getting worse since there is no abundance to send them anymore to help them out and they were forced out of their own farms because you cant beat free. I seen it coming. if food aid is free for thepeople the farmers cant selltheir produce and go out of business. whenthe aid stops no one is producing food. you get the picture. your flowers are beautiful

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  2. It is unfortunate that rewilding is so controversial; but I get it. In our region, it is just the opposite. People who consider themselves to be environmentalists get angry about responsible vegetation management that we perform to ‘try’ to contain invasive exotic species, and limit combustibility around important sites. (We can not do much to limit combustibility everywhere.) I must have mentioned this before. Our ecosystems was disrupted relatively recently, not much more than a century ago. Nonetheless, it was disrupted severely, and is now more combustible than it naturally should be. Responsible harvesting of the overgrowth is actually good for the ecosystem, and can help restore it somewhat.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Tony. I’m learning a lot and have no answers, but lots of questions! Wildfire is not much of an issue in my natural habitat of North West England (it’s often very wet), but there is controlled burning of heather in Lancashire during the summer months, because managing the landscape to enable grouse shooting is a very profitable operation for landowners, and that shapes the landscape. There’s much rage about this kind of land management – as it is a carbon source – because if this land were left alone it would afforest and absorb carbon – but who profits from such inaction is the biggest question.(!)

      A lot of the UK landscape has been shaped to suit the well off, and it has been so for many centuries. It seems to me that the line between ‘natural’ and ‘traditional’ are blurred amongst those invested in the establishment of landowning. We do not acknowledge how much impact people have had on the landscape we take as ‘normal’, nor the opportunity cost of prime land being set aside for the recreation of the well-to-do!

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      1. Even without getting into forest management, we studied some of the traditions of landscaping there while in school. Some were quite shocking to Californians who had never seen such things. For example, those long avenues cut through forests and flanked with formally planted trees, merely for the demonstration of the vastness of controlled land, is something that would enrage even nonenvironmentalists here. (They might be known as allees, but I do not remember.) Yet, even here, a few landscapes can be ridiculously disruptive, including large ponds and artificial ‘lakes’. Huge (and unappealingly designed) fountains are regularly built in regions where were are ‘supposed’ to conserve water, as if to flaunt a lack of concern. It makes no sense.

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      2. It makes NO sense. Either we can not do what we should to help the forest recover from disruption, or we build landscapes that are extremely disruptive. Environmentalists here should be more concerned with the unnatural landscapes.

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