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Medlars at The Vyne

October 6, 2014

Author: Keith Gillings (Fruit and produce volunteer)

Sadly this year has seen the demise of both of our medlar trees at The Vyne. They were in the wild garden and had succumbed to disease which has required them to be cut down. Medlars are part of the Rosacea family and therefore related to the apple and roses. It has a rather ugly appearance rather like a large, ugly rose hip and it has the unfortunate nickname of ‘dogs bottom’ (when viewed from the base you can quite understand why).



Harvesting is interesting in that you pick them just before frosts are about and when ripe they are hard and green. They aren’t edible until they’ve become half rotten or ‘bletted’, when they turn brown and soft. In Victorian time they were eaten by scooping out the brown mush, mixing it with clotted cream and adding a little fortified wine.
A very nice jelly can be made from them that sets well and makes a good accompanyment to cooked meat such as cold pork.

A mystery solved – almost

September 25, 2014

Author: James Meikle

Little Grebes can be seen on the ornamental lake throughout the year. Even if you can’t spot them their distinctive whinnying call can be heard.

In spring and summer last year (2013) there were at least two pairs in breeding plumage but despite visiting frequently I did not see any young grebes. Nor to my knowledge, did anyone else. Then in the autumn, there were at least half-a-dozen fully grown immature Little Grebes on the lake and numbers increased with the onset of winter.

But where did they come from? Had they hatched around the lake or had they flown in from elsewhere? Little Grebes do tend to fly in for the winter and form small flocks.

By the spring this year (2014) the numbers reduced until once again, there seemed to be 2 pairs in breeding plumage. As the weeks passed, they became secretive and I saw them only occasionally. There were no chicks to be seen.

Then on 12 August, I saw an immature Little Grebe – well grown but with remnants of stripes on its head and accompanied by two adults; the stripes confirming that this was a juvenile bird and unable to fly.

So mystery partially solved. Little Grebes do breed on the ornamental lake but the mystery of where all the birds hide until the autumn remains. In summer there are several hours of daylight before The Vyne opens and several hours after it closes so maybe they confine their excursions onto open water to these hours and remain in the reedy fringes while people are around.

A few days later, while walking along the lake on my way out I heard a twittering from the other side of the reeds. More baby coots or moorhens I told myself but something made me go back and lo and behold – baby grebes. Birdwatching can deliver some memorable moments and one of the babies didn’t spot me. It dived under the water which happened to be crystal clear and I could see the little bird swimming powerfully to and fro under the water close to the bank.

Top left: Adult breeding plumage. Top right: Full grown chic, winter plumage. Bottom left: Near grown chic residual strips. Bottom right: Chic recently hatched

Top left: Adult breeding plumage. Top right: Full grown chic, winter plumage. Bottom left: Near grown chic residual strips. Bottom right: Chic recently hatched

At the time of writing (mid-September) Little Grebes are probably the most numerous (20-30) species on the lake and there is at least one brood which is just a few weeks old. Adults and juveniles have ceased their secrecy and can be photographed quite easily.

Autumn festival – 18th and 19th October 2014

September 8, 2014

A date for your diaries. Our autumn festival is fast approaching and you are all welcome to come join in the fun. Sample and purchase apples from a great range of local varieties, grown on here in The Vyne’s own orchards. Watch the workings of a traditional apple press, have a go at breaking up the apples and see the juice run. Held in our walled garden you’ll find various local craft stallholders and the chance to enjoy besom broom making and other activities for the whole family to get involved. There will also be a falconry display with various birds for you to see in action.

This is a wonderful social event so please do come along and enjoy the day with us in what is a beautiful part of the Hampshire countryside. See our events calendar for more information.

The delights of autumn harvest at The Vyne - Hampshire

The delights of autumn harvest at The Vyne – Hampshire


Keith Gillings our highly industrious and very knowlegable  fruit volunteer carefully selects ripe apples.

Keith Gillings our highly industrious and very knowlegable fruit volunteer carefully selects ripe apples.


The preparation for our apples in full swing in the orchard

The preparation for storage of our apples in full swing in the orchard

Aerial acrobats

August 31, 2014

Dragonflies (order Odonata)

Dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects in the world. They can fly backwards, change direction in mid-air and hover for up to a minute while maintaining a fixed position above the ground. There are almost 6000 species worldwide. Here in the UK there are 56 species, a figure that includes closely related  damselflies. Dragonflies are easily identified as they hold their wings perpendicular to their bodies whereas damselflies hold theirs closed above the torso when at rest.

We have a variety of slow flowing water habitats here at The Vyne most of which are fringed with reeds and grasses. These make a perfect spot to observe these acrobatic wonders of nature as they flit about there business of hunting other insects for food or finding a mate.

You can observe dragonflies as early as mid April through to September. Warm days are best and if you want to capture images of these wonderful insects you’ll need a camera with either a macro lens for detailed closeups or a 200mm zoom lens. The later will enable you to get in close without disturbing the subject.

As you can see below there are many interesting species that can regularly be seen around our lake and wetland areas. So why not pop by and see if you can spot a species we haven’t yet spied?

If you manage to capture that prized macro shot. Well, why not share it with us to be featured in a future article here on the blog?

Top - Emperor dragonfly, Black tailed skimmer. Bottom - Broad bodied chaser and Common darter.

Top – Emperor dragonfly, Black tailed skimmer. Bottom – Broad bodied chaser and Common darter. Copyright – James Meikle




Sandham – a memorial to the forgotten

August 23, 2014

I’ve enjoyed working in many areas of the Trust over the past three years. I get a wonderful buzz just being involved and working alongside like minded individuals, each full of enthusiasm, energy and a deep love of our special places.

A side effect of this love is that you forget how busy and full your days are most of the time. Today I stopped, perhaps in memory of reading the William Henry Davies poem Leisure ‘What is this life, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare?’

Sandham, a little known treasure of our english heritage had been on my radar too long. I had some ‘me’ time and I spent it discovering this unique place for myself.

What I found was peace and serenity away from the clamour of day to day life. A glimpse into one mans personal experiences of the first world war. Stanley Spencer has a profound understanding of shape and form and uses this to tell his story in quite a unique and powerful way.

It’s also a place you can reflect on life. The Chapel deserves your time and the garden lovingly created by volunteers and staff is a peaceful place to enjoy in it’s self.

Discover more about this unique place: Sandham memorial chapel

Sculpture 'Blown away'

Sculpture ‘Blown away’ presides over the garden of reflection


Sizzling Summer garden

August 9, 2014

If you enjoy perennial border colour then a stroll though our summer garden will be right up your path. Our very dedicated gardening team of staff and volunteers have worked their magic again this year filling this space full to brimming with herbaceous perennials to catch the eye. Summer is rolling by so now is as good a time as any to enjoy them at their best.

Background bed: Ricinus Carmencita 'Bright Red', Salvia 'Victoria Mix', Pennistum 'Vertigo' and Geranium "Maverick Pink'. Foreground bed: Coleus 'Kong Rose' and Heliotrope 'Marine'.

Background bed: Ricinus Carmencita ‘Bright Red’, Salvia ‘Victoria Mix’, Pennistum ‘Vertigo’, Geranium “Maverick Pink’ and Ageratum ‘High Tide’.Foreground bed: Coleus ‘Kong Rose’ and Heliotrope ‘Marine’.

Coleus 'Kong rose' and Heliotrope 'marine'

Looking west towards the stables – Coleus ‘Kong rose’ and Heliotrope ‘marine’

A little history with your herbs

July 31, 2014

Herb Wheel



Herb wheel in our walled garden

Herb wheel in our walled garden

Herb Wheel Diag


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