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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

Cockoo-pint: A feisty little fellow

July 23, 2014

Arum maculatum is a common woodland plant species of the Araceae family and widespread across northern Europe. It is known as lords-and-ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, Adam and Eve, wake robin and friar’s cowl among many others.

Many small rodents appear to find the spadix (flower bearing spike) particularly attractive and it is easy to find examples of the spadix eaten away. The spadix produces heat and probably scent as the flowers mature and it may be this that attracts the rodents.

In the past this plant has been used as a substitute for arrowroot when properly prepared. It should be noted however that the tissues contain calcium oxalate which can cause irritation to the skin and if swallowed lead to swelling of the tongue and potentially breathing problems.


Arum maculatum - common name Cockoo-Pint

Arum maculatum – common name Cockoo-Pint. A curious plant that needs a little respect.

Campanula glomerata – A stunning sight in summer

July 12, 2014

On your journey past the weir to the house you’ll encounter a striking and very attractive purple flowering perennial. Over the past three weeks the number one gardening question received by our visitor reception team has been ‘what is this plant and do we sell them?’.

The plant in question is Campanula glomerata. The genus Latin name (“campanula”), meaning small bell, refers to the bell-shape of the flower, while the specific name (“glomerata”) refers to the tight grouping of the flowers at the top of the stem.

Campanula glomerata is a stunning and compact perennial herbaceous plant.

Campanula glomerata is a stunning and compact perennial herbaceous plant.

Commonly known as clustered bellflower or Dane’s blood, the species is native across Europe and Japan. In Europe it is present almost everywhere. Generally it prefers calcareous well drained soil but will tolerate most garden soils and reliably flowers from early to  late summer. It readily enjoys and thrives in full sun.

These plants will quickly form a large clump, so allow plenty of space when planting. They are also easily divided in spring or autumn. Plants may benefit from a hard clipping back immediately after blooming, to maintain a low, compact shape.

We rarely have this plant for sale unfortunately but they are very easily propagated by division so a kind word in a green-fingered friends ear may prove fruitful.

In Russian folk medicine this plant has been used to treat headaches, rheumatic pain, coughs and epilepsy.

New life

June 30, 2014

Author: James Meikle

Around The Vyne, the reasons for all the earlier sound and frantic activity are beginning to appear. Young Mallard have been on the lakes for a couple of months and the fledglings of other species can be seen and heard.

This is often a time of confusion for novice bird watchers and sometimes for the more experienced! because young birds will often not sound or look like their parents. Young water birds in particular leave the nest when they are much smaller than their parents and have very different plumage but are often able to feed themselves straightaway. Land birds are often the same size as their parents when they fledge but have different plumage and tend to be dependent on their parents for food.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

The Wren and Long-tailed Tit in the pictures are probably easily recognisable although the latter lacks the dark pink colouration seen on the adults. The young Robin is less recognisable. They are sometimes taken for female Robins but the plumage of adult male and female Robins looks identical (to humans at least!) and the young Robin will not get its red breast until it is 6-7 weeks old.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin

One way to identify a fledgling of is to look at the base of the beak. The join between the ‘mandibles’ will often have a downward turn (known as the ‘gape’) giving the bird a rather sad expression.

Ducklings and Goslings are fluffy, charming and neatly proportioned creatures. The pictures are of Greylag Geese – a pair with five goslings turned up on the ornamental lake in early May. Although they must have nested close to the lake the nest site remains a mystery. Sadly, their number reduced to three. The pictures were taken over a period of about one month – in the last picture you can just see the adult feathers emerging.

Mallard chic

Mallard chic

Baby Coots and Moorhens are nowhere near as cute (but at least their mothers love them!). They have nearly bald heads, scruffy down and enormous feet. They also have quite livid red marks on their flanks where their wings will later grow.

For some birds which only have one brood per year, the breeding season is pretty much over. Other species will go on to raise up to three more families. For some migrants such as Swifts and Spotted Flycatchers which only arrive in numbers in early May, breeding has only just begun.


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