Demolition and the point of no return

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Barrington Quarry (2011) viewed from the footpath along the northern edge

We live near to a fairly large clunch quarry (hard limestone used for building) and cement works, and as with most mining activities, it has not been without its controversies over the years, particularly as the workings have come to an end. About ten years ago local communities were fighting to prevent the on-site chimney from being substantially extended to allow the incineration of all manner of waste materials. Luckily for us, Cemex eventually chose another site for its large-scale cement production and the 56m chimney has sat unused ever since.

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Barrington chimney and clunch/cement quarry from Chapel Hill

Some of the quarry land has now been restored and they are planning to build a couple of hundred houses there. They also decided to demolish the chimney in advance of this work. In fact, we had no idea about the demolition until a recent pub trip for Christmas drinks when we noticed a poster promoting the sale of raffle tickets … to select the person to press the big red detonation button. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, in the end a local Barrington resident won the honour. That seems fair, but many of us were nevertheless keen to watch the end of the 58year old chimney. So yesterday morning several hundred people lined up along the edge of the quarry to say goodbye. It turned out to be a glorious morning, with clear blue skies.

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Walking over the hill from Harlton to the quarry 20th Dec 2018

Unfortunately the recommended area for viewing the demise of the chimney was roughly due west of the chimney, meaning the sun at 9am was almost directly behind it. With a bit of squinting it was fine and the lighting of the scene was quite romantic.

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Is it time yet? Waiting for the chimney demolition

So we took pictures while we waited for zero hour (9am). 9 o’clock passed. We fidgeted. Took more video footage of the chimney silhouetted against the sun.  A youth behind us complained that he had by that point taken ~20 videos of an unchanging chimney already. But we knew it was imminent when the guys in hi-vis jackets lined up on the opposite side looking towards the chimney.

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Ready for the big bang

Then a klaxon sounded and finally there was a puff of smoke at the base of the tower. The chimney started to lean to the left. There was a very loud bang (in reflex I took my finger off the video button – oops) … and then it was gone.

And this is the last frame I took!

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There’s no going back from that.

If you want to see a great video of the demolition then take a look at this aerial footage from the BBC:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-cambridgeshire-46636702/aerial-footage-captures-barrington-chimney-demolition

I was impressed the precision of the fall and how effective the multiple water jets were at keeping the dust down.

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The new chimney-free view of Barrinton

The end of an era

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Day-Glo ‘Greens’

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Rainbow Chard, cheerful whatever the weather, but especially with a touch of sunlight!

Posted in Food, Vegetables, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Six on Saturday – In between Lemsips

15/12/2018

I’ve been snatching moments in the garden this week, in between sneezing and coughing and guzzling vitamin C and Lemsip. There’s been a bit of tidying, a bit of potting up/on and a final bit of bulb disposal (OK planting, but at this point I just want to get it finished). However, now the substantial array of pots containing bulbs is currently causing me grief because something is steadily burrowing in to eat the bulbs. I’ve covering the pots with old wire shelving from a couple of defunct plastic greenhouses, but the excavations are still appearing, so it is not blackbirds or squirrels … something smaller … I’m thinking mice or voles. I know that there are both around here. I’ve double layered the shelving and covered them in fallen birch twigs now too, but I am still seeing holes. I need to go buy some chicken wire before I get too depressed.

Anyhow, I’m joining in with Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator. It’s a growing phenomenon and there are tons of interesting observations to check out in the other SoSs.

1) Wood blewits?

I found these pretty purple mushrooms round the back of the greenhouse, under a birch tree, in the area I was potting up all the bulbs. I am fairly certain they are wood blewits (Lepista nuda), but I’ve no idea how they came to grow there. Having said that I am wondering whether the compost I use has something to do with it, because last year I found them in one of the raised vegetable beds at about this time of year. Anybody else experienced the same thing?

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Wood blewits (Lepista nuda) appeared in the gravel driveway

2) Decorative post-seed heads

I like to leave as many seed heads on plants as I can over the winter, for interest and wildlife. Echinacea takes the interest one step further though as, once the seeds have dropped, the core of the flower has a fantastic shape and texture. Decorated with frost or snow (we don’t usually see that much here in East Anglia) the empty seed heads are an attractive feature well into winter.

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The sculptural cores of Echinacea purpurea seed heads are gradually being exposed

3) Surprising tubers of Mirabilis longiflora

It probably isn’t a surprise to anybody who has grown this Mirabilis before, but it was to me as this is the first year that I have tried M. longiflora ‘Angel Trumpets’ from seed. I first saw these flowers growing at Cambridge Botanics last year and was super impressed with their luxurious, scented, white trumpets, so thought to give them ago at home (Chiltern Seeds sell them). They grew easily, but I neglected them and while they put out lots of top growth, I didn’t actually get any flowers. I was tipping up a discarded module tray into the compost last week when I discovered that there were fat tubers in each compartment. I’ve fish them out and replanted them to overwinter in the greenhouse, because when I checked the website it said … ‘the tubers will survive mild frost in the winter’. Hopefully I get to try them again, from a running start this time.

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Mirabilis longiflora (not *folia as per label in photo)

4) Heron protection

Having lost most of the fish in our pond to a young heron (inset), we decided to give the fish a bit more protection, or at least more places to hide, in the form of large chunks of drainage pipes. So Steve went to a builders merchant and paid way too much for some interestingly shaped bits of clay drainage pipes (as seen on decking). Mid-week I found myself wading into freezing water to place the pieces. I am still thawing out!!

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New caves to hide from the heron

5) Home grown Turmeric

I found an overlooked pack of turmeric at the back of the larder last week. It has obviously given up waiting to be used and decided to continue growing. So I’ve potted it up and am waiting to see what will happen next.

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An experiment … will turmeric grow in a pot on a window?

6) Christmas purchases

I was looking for presents in the local garden centre, when I came across a lovely display of begonia rex. Now I am terrible at keeping begonias alive, but I am going to try again because I couldn’t resist those metallic colours and patterns (plus I really love the spiral one).  A Christmas present for myself I think.

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New house plants … suitably shiny for Christmas

So those are my Six.

I hope that you are having more success with your Christmas preparations!

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Wordless Wednesday – Angry Bird!

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Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) taking a drink to wash all those haws down.

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Red from Angry Birds

Posted in birds, Wildlife, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wildlife Wednesday: November – Patient and deadly

Our fish have gone. Our lovely new (and therefore newly stocked) pond has been raided. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise I suppose. I’d even noted a heron flying over the village a few times recently. Then I began to realise that I was disturbing it from somewhere nearby when I took the dog out down the alley. And then there was the day that I went to hang the washing out and saw a heron take off from the edge of our pond.

After that I took to counting fish daily. They seemed to be coping OK, hiding in the submerged terracotta pots we put in the bottom … until the day I caught the culprit brazenly standing on the lawn staring into the water.

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Juvenile Grey heron fishing in our pond

I chased him off in a perfunctory way, but when I counted that day I couldn’t see any fish whatsoever.

So, we appear to being targeted by a juvenile grey heron. He’s been back several times (actually I’ve no idea about gender), making me optimistic that there must be some fish left in there that are good at hiding.

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Then, last weekend when I was at the kitchen window I was startled to see a heron strolling though the archway to the patio (there is another small pond there too). I guess he was surprised too, because he waited to see what I would do (get my camera of course!!)

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Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) on the patio

He is a very large bird and very elegant. I’ve labelled him a juvenile since juveniles are greyer than adults, without the darker markings (such as the broad black stripe that runs from the eyes to the nape).

Eventually, I chased him off, but I don’t think that he is particularly bothered by me. I expect to see him again shortly. Sadly, I can no longer spot any fish in the small pond either, so he appears to be a fairly efficient fisherman.

We had another unexpected visitor to our patio area last week in the shape of a female sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus).

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Female sparrowhawk making use of the chimnea

She seemed to be mostly interested in taking a bath. I spotted her fluttering around the waterfall to the small pond, but she couldn’t settle. Eventually she perched on top of the chiminea, checked out her surroundings and then moved on to the birdbath.

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Sparrowhawk taking a bath

There you have it, two successful predators and an exercise in contrasts. Just compare their beaks, talons and body shapes. I’ve not seen either close up in the garden before, so that has been most exciting.

I’m joining Tina @mygardenersays for Wildlife Wednesday (first Wednesday of each month). In her post today she finds herself reflecting that in a thriving wildlife garden ‘life and death is business as usual’. This post would seem to illustrate her point.

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Six on Saturday – Eeek, it’s December

01-12-2018

Oh wow, it’s December already. Have you got your advent calendars out? Have you got all your spring bulbs in? I’ll be honest, I’ve been beavering away on this task on and off all week to meet the end November deadline, but there are still a few left. Most are tucked under the soil though. Oh, except for that order I placed yesterday for  70% off sale bulbs that I couldn’t resist. Anyhow, here are my Six things on a Saturday. You play don’t you? If not, it’s easy to join in by linking to The Propagator’s blog and checking out the many and varied contributions about gardening ‘stuff’.

1) #NationalTreeWeek

As we reach the end of National Tree Week (25th November to 3rd December), my first ‘Six’ today is a celebration of a favourite specimen. It is an Indian Bean tree on the lawn at Wimpole Estate. With it’s leaves now fallen, it has been revealed in all its gnarled glory and is dripping with ‘bean’ pods. Over the years storms have twisted its spreading limbs rather more than it could bear and annual tree inspections have forced the removal of some of its damaged branches, but it remains an energetic and much admired presence at the edge of the parterre. Long may it stand.

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Gnarled Indian Bean tree (Catalpa bignonoides) on the lawn at Wimpole Hall

2) Hot Lemon Drops

The chilli plants I potted up and brought inside at the end of October have stopped flowering. However, the existing fruits continue to ripen, making the kitchen windowsills look festively decorated. This year I’ve particularly enjoyed growing Aji Limon or the Lemon drop chilli. True to its name, it has a very definite citrus tang to its heat. And it is a hot one (15,000-30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale apparently). I tend to nibble the ends and then hand the rest over to Steve!

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Aji Limon or the Lemon drop chilli

3) Hazel catkins revealed

The butter yellow tones the hazel leaves have been brilliant this autumn. With recent gales stripping off the last of the foliage, we can see the evidence of seasons moving on and once again anticipate the cheerful sight of clusters of dancing catkins. They are there, ready and waiting. Look at it this way, Winter’s days are already numbered.

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Hazel catkins exposed

4) Meadow residents

I’ve been planting bulbs in the wild meadow: Wild daffodils, camassias and Byzantine gladiolas. I have been surprised by how many chafer grubs I’ve discovered in the process though. I add more bulbs to this area every autumn and I don’t remember seeing so many pests last year or the year before. I hope that they are not going to become a problem.

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Chafer grubs under the rough grass in the meadow

5) Winter Honeysuckle

As I walked passed the garage this week I noticed some very welcome winter scents. At one corner I have a clipped viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, which, on following my nose and looking, is fairly covered in flowers. On the other side of the door there are a couple of winter honeysuckles (Lonicera fragrantissima) and I was surprised to see that they have started into flower already too. My attention was drawn to the bushes because they of the number of insects buzzing around them, including several types of hoverfly.

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Hoverfly on Winter Honeysuckle

6) Crab Apples

For the last couple of months Sadie, our dog, has had a tendency to get distracted by fallen damsons on the driveway when she is sent outside to do her stuff. However, in the last week she has changed her browsing area to beneath our crab apple tree. She loves apples and since we hit zero last week the apples have started to drop to the ground. The birds are also evidently pecking at the fruits. Blackbirds and pigeons so far, but the field-fares and thrushes won’t be far behind. So I’ve been out today, collecting a bowlful while they are still there. This will be turn into an amber jelly for Christmas dinner.

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Glowing crab apples (‘John Downie’)

Have a good week!

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Wordless Wednesday – Sadie, the foraging dog

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Sadie joins in foraging for hawthorn berries for ‘Haw-sin’ sauce

Posted in Food, Sadie | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments