30 Days Wild 2016

Day 30!…… and here in Wiltshire even the weather now seems to be lamenting the sad fact it’s the last day of 30 Days Wild 2016.

We posted this book extract at the end of last years 30 Days Wild and it still sums up how we feel….

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The words of Pia Kaminski from her book ‘The Seed’

…. and so we carried on from where we left off last night and have been doing some further dipping and identifying in the stream running through our garden. We will carry on and stay wild.

We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our wild adventures with you all and at the same time have enjoyed reading all your wonderful blogs and social media posts. 30 Days Wild has been hugely inspiring and we have learnt so much. Thank you to all of you, especially Brock Badger and The Wildlife Trusts. See you all next year!

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Gin & tonic with Elderflower ice cubes and Georgia’s Elderflower ice lolly

#StayWild and “Cheers” from Team Lovett ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

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30 days Wild 2016

 

Day 27, 28 and 29!….. small, but wonderfully calming, and wildly exciting, moments of random wildness as Team Lovett juggle a week ย of work, courses, after school clubs and a full school programme of family activites as we head into the last week of the school year next week.

On Monday, Day 27, it was Sports Day at school and we always head up to our ‘Top of the World’, otherwise known as Charlbury Hill, Wiltshire Trig Point, afterwards to celebrate a great afternoon and unwind in with some random wildness.

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The views from ‘Top of the World’…

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…and the vantage point

We were hoping to spot some butterflies, about this time last year there were lots about, but it was rather blowy today and we spotted just one Meadow brown and also a single Six-spot burnet moth. Georgia was impressed to learn that the bright red spots on this moths wings are a warning to predators to stay away, because it’s poisonous from feeding as a larvae on the wildflower Bird’s-foot trefoil, which contains the deadly chemical cyanide. Of course, she had to ask the question, “Why don’t the larvae die ย from eating the poison?”……. “Good question! We’ll look that up together when we get home”……. and on looking it up we found out that the larvae only eat small quantities of cyanide, so not enough to poison them, but it will make both the larvae and adult either poisonous or distateful to predators, particularly birds.

We were pleased to spot that the Pyramidal and Common spotted orchids were out and dotted around in various stages of flowering and so too were Common knapweed, Bird’s-foot trefoil, Tufted vetch and Kidney vetch.

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Pyramidal ย and Common spotted orchids

We also spotted the parasitic wildflower, Broomrape, which up on this hill seems to favour the roots of Clover and Knapweed as hosts. It is very distinctive, a total lack of chlorophyll renders it a rusty brown colour and with pinkish-yellow flowers and an upright stance it is easily spotted amongst all the green grasses.

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Common broomrape

Day 28 and Mum and Dad had interesting wild finds at their respective places of work.

Mum spotted AND managed to photograph a Small skipper butterfly and a Garden chafer beetle in the garden she was working in, which she was pretty pleased about….

… and also a Pigeon eggshell, which Georgia was thrilled to add to her wildlife collection.

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Pigeon eggshell, surprisingly interesting

Dad spotted Bee orchids at his ‘Outdoor office’ for the day….

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One of the many Bee orchids spotted

…. and then he out did all of our other finds with one of the ‘Holy Grail’ of all wild discoveries……. a full snake skin!

Day 29, the penultimate day of 30 Days Wild, ย and the rain that started yesterday evening has continued throughout today and poor Georgia wasn’t feeling too well after school, so we were not feeling confident of having any wild news to post today.

However, a quick trip to the local garden centre resulted in us spotting a beautiful queen White-tailed bumblebee on the array of colourful flowers. She was huge and she put a huge smile back on Georgia’s face.

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Queen Bee

After supper Mum got random with a vengeance, snatched up the crabbing bucket and a dipping net and headed out into the rain and down to the stream that runs through the garden. We’ve only lived here a few months and have not investigated the stream for any life yet, but it has been on the agenda. The depth of the stream varies from about 2″ to 6″ depending on how much rain we’ve had, obviously, but never dries up, and runs through quite fast. We’ve never felt confident that we would find any life in it, not sure why, especially now, because the first dip Mum did brought up a whole bucket full of life, including Freshwater shrimp and Caseless caddis fly larvae.

The whole of Team Lovett, including Hazel. were totally thrilled to bits. Guess what we’re going to be doing tomorrow?!

Happy wild days from Team Lovett ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

30 Days Wild 2016

Day 23, 24, 25 and 26……. four days doing our little bit to honour National Insect Week, Hedgehog Friday and National Unplugging Day, as well as 30 Days Wild.

Mum was browsing amongst the plants at the local garden centre at lunch-time on Thursday, Day 23, and was drawn to a table of wildflower plants by the number of bees on the flowers and also noticed that the plants had been reduced to 5 for ยฃ10…… bargain, just right for revamping Georgia’s bee and butterfly sink garden from last years 30 Days Wild. On paying for the five selected plants Mum was informed that they had been further reduced to 5 for ยฃ5…… double bargain!

So….. on Georgia’s return from school we had fun together cleaning out the old sink, filling it with fresh soil, planting the new plants and giving them a good drink of water.ย We stood back and admired our handiwork…… we had planted a mix of plants attractive to bees, butterflies and other nectar-feeding insects; Allium sphaerocephalon, Greater knapweed, Meadow clary, Rough hawkbit and Yarrow.

We had made plans at the beginning of 30 Days Wild to make a hedgehog house to go in the garden and with Friday, Day 24, being The British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s Hedgehog Friday it seemed a fitting day to finally make it. We’d been given some wooden storage boxes awhile ago for this purpose, so we hauled them out, dusted them down and set to…..

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Grand Designs

We just need to do a bit more research in the the garden to find the best place to site the newly built hedgehog abode and put in some suitable dry leaves for bedding.

On Saturday afternoon, Day 25, we went to an event run by our local trust, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. It’s been bugging us that we hadn’t yet attended any of their events and we are so happy to have ย finally made one…..

After swim school we headed to ย WWT Lower Moor Farm, Cricklade, Wiltshire, which also includes Clattinger Farm, Sandpool and Oaksey Moor Farm Meadow, for a BioBlitz….. and what a fantastic place it is! A really exciting place with so much to see and do, we got involved with Bats, Microscopes, Butterflies, Mammals, Reptiles, Damselflies and Dragonflies, pond dipping, and Bees. Georgia was thrilled to be shown how to hold a Damselfly, in this case a Common blue damselfly, correctly (By genttly holding their wings together) and then be given the responsibility to hold it herself, and also to meet her first Slow worm. We spent a most enjoyable and enthusiastic time pond dipping and identifying invertebrates and all the different Damselflies and Dragonflies that were flying around. We were given some great advice on what to look out for in the stream in our garden, and we also came away with some interesting information from the Butterfly ย Conservation stand and feel inspired to set up a moth trap at some point in the near future to identify the species we have in our garden.We were buzzing with our wild adventures when we left.

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Wild adventures with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

The wild adventures continued when we arrived back home with a totally random and mutual decision made to camp out overnight in the garden and hopefully spot some great moths and other nocturnal wildlife…… and so…… the Team Lovett 30 Days Wild Camping Farce Mark II commenced.

I think all of us will agree that this years ‘Camp out’ has pipped last years in the farcial stakes. Last year we had a blip, but it got back on par and turned out rather successful, this time, however, it never fully got of the mark at all. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but in this household a combination of enthusiasm and sheer bloody mindedness is a real driving force against all odds, rightly or wrongly.

Firstly, we couldn’t find the tent…… and it is at this very early point that ‘Hindsight’ already springs to mind. Well, we couldn’t find the right tent, the small one, but after finally admitting defeat Dad made the decision to use Georgia’s pop-up tent rather than the big tent, that WAS found. Georgia’s pop-up tent IS a ‘proper’ tent, but is suffering from rips from being dragged around the garden and used for zorbing, but even with threatening black clouds coming and going it was deemed fine to use after a patch up job (‘Hindsight’ is now flashing in neon). The patched up tent is also a two-man tent, so Mum and Hazel, with very little persuading were banished to a night indoors in their usual lovely warm beds.

There had been some rain and drizzle on and off throughout the afternoon so everything outside was damp, so rather than waste time trying to start a camp fire we took the easy option and got out the gas stove. In this way we made tea with water from the stream and toasted marshmallows on Hazel sticks, suitably wild we thought.

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Dusk descended, night time followed rapidly and the rain clouds rolled in and it began drizzle. Dad and Georgia adjourned to their tent and Mum and Hazel went indoors to the dry and warmth of the house and the promise of comfy beds, and as the drizzle continued all thoughts of moth and wildlife hunting evaporated.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, Day 26, the ‘Happy’ campers were forced to abandon tent hastily when the heavens opened and a continuous, torrential downpour made it’s presence felt in the tent and everything from foot to knee became instantly sodden. Georgia was adamant that they continue the camping experience and stay wild, so until she fell asleep they continued to ‘Camp’ on the sofa .

Mum looked at them both that morning and KNEW ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.

It was hard to believe how wet and wild the weather had been the night before on looking out of the window, the sun was out in blue skies and the ground was only slightly wet giving the perfect opportunity to spend National Unplugging Day out of doors..

We started the day by cooking breakfast on the camping stove and eating outside, and went on to take Hazel for a walk along the lane blooming with Elderflower, Cow parsley and Dog rose, watched the Red kites flying over, counted the bees for The Great British Bee Count, took a bike ride to the local water park and went to Go Outdoors to buy a new tent.

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

30 Days Wild 2016

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Day 22!

Today the rain has returned to Wiltshire, but we are feeling invigorated, so decide to visit an old haunt for a wild, wet and muddy walk after school….

…. as it turned out our walk wasn’t that wet or muddy after all, because soon after heading off the sun came out and the humidity increased and everything started drying up quickly. Certainly no complaints though.

We headed off across fields that are being grown for hay and the footpath is a thin, worn line between walls of high grass. Hazel goes bounding off, leaping through the grass with flapping ears, lolling tongue and a thrashing tail and Georgia does her best to follow suit. The walk might not be wet and muddy any more, but it’s definitely still wild!

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Boundless wildness

The path leads to a kissing gate which leads straight onto to Cicely’s Bridge, an old brick bridge which goes across the dried out course of an old canal feeder stream. The bridge is named after a character in the book ‘Round About a Great Estate’ written by Richard Jefferies (1848 – 1887).

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Cicily’s Bridge (Sadly a tad overgrown)

Richard Jefferies was a local nature writer, noted for his depiction of rural life in Wiltshire, works on the natural history, and novels. He lived most of his childhood and some of his married life at Coate Farm near to Coate Water Country Park, our local park, and he spent much of his time taking solitary wanderings about the countryside here, particularly Liddington Castle and the Burderop Estate. We think it’s great that even today, despite development, we can still follow in his footsteps and see many of the countryside scenes he describes in his books.

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One of the views depicted by Richard Jefferies.

We followed the path alongside the old stream bed, which is now also part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network. The hedge is much as it was back in Jefferies time and is mostly Hazel and Dogwood, through which Dog rose grows vigorously, but beautifully.

Many of the old Oak trees seen along the way are also contemporary with Jefferies and we gave one or two an affectionate hug as we passed by.

As we returned across the fields we were caught up in the swooping and sweeping flight of the Swallows, came across numerous slugs, and involuntarily collected a fair quantity of grass seed.

We left feeling inspired to seek out more of Richard Jefferies nature ramble walks and quietly thanked him for leaving such a great legacy.

Happy wild memories revisited and re-made ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

30 Days Wild

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Day 21!…….. and it’s been a lovely day weather wise for all of Team Lovett and each of us has been a little wild at work and school today….

Mum is a gardener and the garden she was working in this morning is owned by a lady who used to be a Beekeeper. Being a bee lover the owner is all too aware of the plight of our bees, so Mum manages this garden actively to ensure that it is as bee friendly, or indeed all wildlife friendly, as possible. She does this by selective mowing, prudent weeding and purposeful planting and no pesticides or weedkillers. In this garden you can find areas of lawn left unmowed and managed as a meadow, self seeded Foxgloves growing alongside Broad beans in the veg garden, managed areas of Poached egg plant growing between the Rhubarb and Gooseberries, Wild blackberry growing in partnership with Bear’s breeches, Acanthus mollis,ย in the borders, and wild areas of Stinging nettle, White nettle and Cow parsley.

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Wild and cultivated working in harmony

Mum loves working in this garden, it is always full of birds, bees, butterflies and lots of other wildlife, proof in the pudding that this method of gardening works well for the benefit of wildlife. Very, very rewarding.

Dad works for the Environment Agency and his ‘Office’ has been in various locations over in Avon and Somerset….

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Views from the ‘Office’

…. of course, he doesn’t always have such desirable views having to deal with oil spills, rubbish and the dead bodies of wildlife in the rivers, flooding and drought, and invasive plant species, such as Himalayan balsam.

Today, however, was one of the better days and besides great locations he has also had a close encounter with a resting Buzzard and spotted Bee orchids. When he is out late on tide watch he’s kept entertained by Swifts and Swallows and very often encounters Barn owls out hunting too.

At school Georgia has been having a WOW Day in the garden where they have been planting plants to benefit bees, birds and butterflies, tending the vegetables they are growing, learning about composting and recycling, weather science and going on a mini beast bioblitz. Mum was given the grand tour after school had finished and proudly introduced to the plants that Georgia had planted and tended to herself and shown the wigwam that the class had made together out of recycled materials….

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In the garden at school

 

 

Mum and Dad love that the school views learning outside of the classroom as vital to a child’s development.

Hazel, too, has had her personal ‘wild’ constitutional today contentedly pottering about in the stream in the garden, sniffing out all the fresh smells from the night before….

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Labradors and water equals wild fun

…. and no doubt she was savouring the peace before the wild times started in earnest on Georgia’s return home from school.

Happy wild times from Team Lovett ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

30 Days Wild 2016

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Day 20!…..

…….and we’re all rather worn out after the weekends adventures followed by school and work today, so we each have a quiet time and our own little random act of wildness in the garden now that Summer has ventured out of its shell this late afternoon.

Georgia, and Hazel of course, skip off down the garden with a picnic supper to ‘share’ in the new den and can later be seen pottering in the stream together.

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Dad spots a Poppy that has opened today in the wild, untamed area right at the bottom of the garden…..

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…..and Mum, finally, is able to make use of the new outdoor furniture AND open her new book, The Wildlife Trust’s ‘Nature Tales, Encounters with Britain’s Wildlife’, and sit down and read in the sunshine.

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Even the smallest, simplest random act of wildness can give so much pleasure and happiness ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ :-).

 

 

30 Days Wild 2016

Days 18 and 19…. and it has been a wild and wonderful weekend!

Saturday morning, Day 18, saw all of Team Lovett heading to Berkshire after swim school to the Life of the River Festival in Newbury, a joint event held by the The Renewal Project (Restoration in Newbury along the River Lambourn) and ARK (Action for the River Kennet).

ARK are working with The Renewal Project to improve a 1.5 mile stretch of the River Lambourn and we learnt about the skills and monitoring techniques they are passing on, including River fly monitoring; The rise or fall of River fly is an important indicator to the health of the river.

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Georgia was able to have a go at river dipping and identifying invertebrates. The number of invertebrates is another important indicator of ย water quality.

We, also learnt about the project to restore the European eel to the River Kennet from which it has been absent for at least the last 20 years. There has been a project in five local schools to raise Elversย (baby Eels) for release into the Kennet. We met baby Elvers for the first time and Georgia was fascinated to observe them, as well as lots of different river invertebrates, in more detail through a magnifying glass.

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Learning about river invertebrates and the life-cycle of Eels

All in all we had a very interesting and informative morning learning about life in the river and are looking forward to ‘Staying Wild’ and attending another ARK Life of the River event at Marlborough College on 7th August.

On Day 19, Sunday and also Fathers Day, Georgia had a special schedule written out for her Dad, which involved some suitably wild activity……

First was a bike ride around the country lanes to the local water park. Along the way we spotted a Muntjac deer darting into the undergrowth, Red kites flying overhead and admired the Elderflowers and Dog rose in the hedgerow. At the park Dad was rewarded with an ice cream and we all sat beside the lake watching the Mute swans, Mallard ducks, Canada geese and a Coot that was acting surprisingly dominant amongst all these much bigger birds. Of course, we were also surrounded by the obligatory and annoying flock of Pigeons.

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Fathers Day bike ride to Coate Water Country Park

Back home it was den build time! Mum and Dad are helping Georgia to raise funds for Save the Children as part of their Den Day campaign. We did this last year and found that by building a den that works as a hide for wildlife spotting it ties in very well with 30 Days Wild. Last years wigwam-style den was a great hit and was used for all sorts of wild activities, as well as secret club meetings, BBQ’s and picnics and lasted all through the summer and autumn and most of the winter, until it blew down in the gales. We’re all hoping the new den lives up to expectations.

We just need Summer to come back out of its shell now ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ :-).

30 Days Wild 2016

 

Days 14, 15, 16 and 17…….. and we’ve been having a relaxed and fun BioBlitz (We love that word)!

We’ve watched our garden spring up in leaps and bounds with great interest since we moved here in February and we’ve observed bees, birds, butterflies, caterpillars, mini beasts and all sorts of wildlife going about their business, but have not yet taken the time to try and identify them individually. It’s now time to become wildlife explorers and find out what marvellous creatures we are sharing our new garden with.

We get kitted up with all the paraphernalia required for a successful BioBlitz…..

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BioBlitz Kit

…..but, we have to down tools almost immediately; A Green woodpecker is spotted on the stream bank, they are a very frequent and welcome visitor to the Team Lovett garden, and we all stop to marvel at the vibrant coloured feathers and the splendid beak. We note that this woodpecker doesn’t look like it has any red in its moustache, so we believe it to be a female. We also take note of the two areas on the grass that she is intent on pecking at and later ย go to investigate and are able to see clearly where she has been busy pecking up ants from their nests.

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Mrs Green Woodpecker and the evidence of her ant feasting

The weather has been erratic to say the least over the four days of our BioBlitz, moments of blazing sunshine amongst frequent thunderstorms, but one of us and her four legged side kick, Hazel, have been running around in all of it and having immense fun poking around for mini beasts and chasing butterflies.

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Wildlife Explorer

That same person also worked diligently and with great interest in the identification and recording process after each creature was spotted (Definitely another proud Mum and Dad moment).

We were particularly chuffed with the number of different bees we found. We tried to take photo’s of each and recorded the species to our BioBlitz list and also to The Great British Bee Count, which Friends of the Earth are running from 19th May – 30th June. One of the bee species we spotted was identified as a Tree bumblebee, a species that was first recorded only in 2001 and we’ve never seen one before, so were all suitably excited by that find. Since ย our first sighting we are noticing that there is more than one of them around.

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Some of the different bee species we managed to photograph clearly

We took lots of bee photo’s in hope that there would be one or two good ones and were pleasantly surprised at just how many turned out well. We managed to catch a good shot of a bee with pollen on its legs, which lead to a good discussion on bees as pollinators.

Although our BioBlitz has not included trees, plants or any life that might be in the stream that runs through our garden we plan to have a separate BioBlitz for these and include the recordings at a later date. The whole exercise of the BioBlitz has been very worthwhile, it’s been a marvellous learning opportunity, not just for Georgia, but for the benefit of the wildlife itself; We now have the information we need to provide for the wildlife we have in our garden by creating suitable habitats, planting suitable plants, providing housing and feeding stations etc……. and, of course,…… it’s been a whole lot of wild fun!

Best wishes for a wild and wonderful weekend from Team Lovett ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

30 Day Wild 2016

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Days 10, 11, 12 and 13….. have merged together through illness and a long weekend away.

Illness and a break away from home make a rather unfortunate pairing, but the situation has been helped enormously by going wild and outdoors activity. Time and time again getting out into nature proves just what a wonderful healer it is. Just sitting outside feeling the elements on ones skin, whether the sun, the rain, or the winds and the different scents; the flowers of the garden, the salt of the seaside, the humus of the forest all have a great calming and healing influence. The sounds and the sights of nature going about its business: bees humming, trees whispering, butterflies flitting and buzzards soaring…. one just can’t help but be transported into a realm where the stresses and strain of ailing body and mind just ease away.

So, illness or not, Team Lovett headed off to Shropshire for a few days to enjoy peaceful, wild moments in a different county. In this time we savoured the sun of Days 10 and 11 and then the rain and thunderstorms of Days 12 and 13. We pottered in the garden, watched the Small red damselflies dart around the wildlife pond, we took walks with Hazel and bike rides around the country lanes between wonderful hedges brimming with a great diversity of shrubs and plants, and birds and insects. We had a picnic with the Nettle & Honey cake we made on Day 9 and can report that it was well worth the effort and all of Team Lovett deemed it a resounding success.

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Nettle & Honey Cake….. lovely!

We also got caught in a downpour in the forest, sheltered under dripping trees, jumped in puddles and left tracks in the mud, we listened to the thunder and smelt the fresh scent of pine needles and the musty scent of the woodland floor, both scents crisp and heightened after the rain. Certainly wild and fun ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ :-).

We had the great fortune to be visited each night of our stay by the delightful Badgers, ‘Brock, Bill and co’. Seeing these iconic, nocturnal mammals up close created great excitement and total awe throughout Team Lovett. They came tearing across the garden at a remarkable speed and were totally unperturbed by us watching and taking photo’s from the window, not even particularly quietly, while they themselves noisily snuffled and crunched their way through the snack we had put out for them.

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Brock, Bill & Co.

On our last morning away we called into Ludford Park, which is a really lovely, little memorial meadow just above the River Teme and the medieval market town of Ludlow. We came across it by accident a few years back and find it to be a special place for peace and for contemplating the complexities, or the simplicity, of life, death and nature. This time, we visited after the rain and the grasses were rather flattened, it was also a little early in the month to see the wildflowers, particularly the Ox-eye daisies. We spotted Yellow rattle just beginning to bloom amongst the grass, we love this flower that, like Quaking grass, has an audible rattle.

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Ludford Park Meadow of Remembrance

Amongst the grasses and flowers of the meadow are flat remembrance stones and on one it says, ‘At ย Rest in the Countryside he Loved’…… What could be more fitting.

Snails @EmmaBradshaw3

….always #StayingWild

30 Days Wild 2016

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Day 9!…… and Half Term finally starts in the Team Lovett household. It’s been a good term with great successes and an excellent report, so to celebrate we bake a really wild cake together.

A while ago we tried some nettle scones and Georgia thought they were rather “Cool”, so we decided to see what other recipes we could find that used Stinging nettles. We had a look around on the internet and found a recipe for Nettle and Honey Cake on http://www.wildwalks-southwest.co.uk, which we thought sounded rather tasty and looked interestingly greenish.

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First we had to collect some fresh, young Stinging nettle leaves, remove any bugs and trim the stalks. Unsurprisingly, Mum only had help from Hazel with this job.

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Stinging nettle prep in progress

Once the nettles were prepared we had to steam them for 5 minutes and then blend them to a pulp. Meanwhile, the honey, sugar and butter were melted together in a pan over a low heat. All was poured into a mixing bowl, stirred and left to cool.

The three eggs were beaten in a separate bowl then added to the mix. The flour was added a bit at a time and stirred in. The whole lot was then poured into a 20 cm, grease proof paper lined cake tin.

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Cake mix prep in progress

We baked the cake in the oven at 150 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. It emerged from the oven a lovely golden colour with a greenish tinge, springy and moist, and smelt absolutely divine.

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Freshly baked Nettle and Honey Cake

Georgia, on licking out the cake mix bowl, reports that it was “Delicious”. We can’t yet comment on the edibility of the cake itself, we are taking it away with us tomorrow, but will report back in the next few days.

If it tastes as good as it smells we’re hoping it will go down a treat with the Elderflower cordial we made yesterday. Fingers crossed!

Wishing you all a wild Friday tomorrow from Team Lovett ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚