Pet Hates #2 & 3

 In an earlier post, I may have mentioned a pet hate of mine where quantitative data is provided without the necessary context. One of Mary's pet hates is the misspelling of common words; specifically in permanent displays. On our recent walk around the Mordiford Dragon Trail, she spotted this story board...

Story Board on the Mordiford Dragon Trail 

Did you spot the spelling mistake? The possessive pronoun 'their' is spelt incorrectly as 'thier'.

In everyday communications, I'm sure we've all sent messages that contain spelling mistakes despite the routine availability of spell checkers on phones and computers (if you can get the damn thing to always spell check as British English rather than reverting, on occasions, to American English!). And who has not been caught out by the dreaded predictive text altering words in your urgently sent electronic missives.

But really, there is no excuse for these simple spelling mistakes on permanent display boards. I guess no one employs copy editors these days to correct these errors - it might be worth it considering the mistake will be around for decades!

Mary then reminded me of another of my pet hates - the misuse of apostrophes. I came across this example recently...

 Why oh why is there an apostrophe in 'INSULTS'. Surely, for consistency, the signwriter must include an apostrophe in 'CAKE'S'. And shouldn't there be a comma after 'TEA'? And, if you're using the Oxford comma, after 'CAKES' as well!

English grammar is difficult and, in day-to-day language, we can relax the rules somewhat provided the meaning of what we are saying or writing is successfully conveyed. But for long-lasting permanent displays, I think a little more care is required. Rant over!!!!!

My next pet hate might be about the overuse of exclamation remarks in modern writing...

Maude and the Dragon

 Mordiford is a village near Hereford with two notable features: the oldest bridge in Herefordshire, dating back to 1352, and the Dragon of Mordiford legend.

Dragon Egg - papier mache by Mary

There are several versions of the story but they all start with an egg hatching in a field from which a baby dragon emerges. A local girl, Maud or Maude, finds the dragon and befriends it. As Maude's pet grew, its appetite increased and its diet changed from insects to small mammals/fish to chickens, and finally, sheep and cattle. This got it noticed and the local villagers decided it had to go.

The Mordiford Dragon - needle felt/mixed media by Mary

A reward was offered but with no takers until a man, Garstone, variously described as a dragonslayer or a convict offered a pardon if he killed the dragon, came forward to do the dirty deed. He hid in a barrel by the river and waited for the dragon...

Garstone in his Barrel - needle felt by Mary

The story has several endings: (i) Garstone kills the dragon, (ii) the dragon falls into the river and disappears downstream, or (iii) Garstone agrees to let the dragon go if it promises to only hunt for food in the woods. In some versions, Garstone lives and in others he dies, slain by dragon's breath.

In 2018, a local resident decided this story should be celebrated as part of the history of Mordiford. The Mordiford Dragon Trail was opened in May 2022. Mary & I finally got to walk its 1.4 miles a couple of weeks ago.

Board Map of the Mordiford Dragon Trail

We did get lost on the initial part of the trail and had to ask for directions from a local resident - some of the signage,  including the board map, could be clearer (and we could have been a little more observant!). Look out for dragon eggs and red waymarker signs...

Dragon Trail Waymarkers

We started near the Board Map with this sculpture of Maude and her Dragon...

Maude and her Dragon

Then followed the route passing the old mill...

Water Mill

...before coming across the young dragon by the stream...

Young Dragon drinking

...and then the Reward Poster.

Dead but not Alive

At the lime kilns...

Lime Kilns
...we meet the fully-grown dragon...

and, finally, the dragonslayer, Garstone...

Garstone hiding in his barrel

Did we spot all the dragon artifacts on the trail?  Not sure! However, a very pleasant walk with views of the wonderful Herefordshire countryside - and, at this time of year (September), cider orchards laden with apples...

Cider Orchards


Nature and Neolithic

 Returning from a family visit near London, we split the journey back to Hereford with overnight stays in Holybourne (visiting Jane Austen's House and Gilbert White's House and Gardens) and Marlborough. On the journey from Marlborough to Hereford, we stopped off at the Avebury World Heritage Site cared for by the National Trust and English Heritage. While looking around Avebury Manor we came across this article of furniture...

Guess what?
More on that later.

On route from Holybourne to Marlborough, we visited the houses and gardens of Jane Austen in the morning and Gilbert White in the afternoon.

Gilbert White (1720 - 1793) was one of a long line of ordained naturalists or natural theologians who observed and wrote about nature when not performing their day job. White is best known for his magnum opus: The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. First published in 1789, the book has always been in print. Wikipedia casts doubt on the claim by the Gilbert White Museum at Selborne that the book is the fourth most published book in the English language after the Bible, Shakespeare, and John Bunyans 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.

The museum is excellent and includes the Oates Collection which tells the stories of explorers Frank and Lawrence Oates - Lawrence was a member of the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole led by Scott of the Antarctic. Lawrence Oates famous last words were, according to Scott: "I am just going outside and may be some time" as he sacrificed himself (forlornly, as it happened) so the others could survive.

The gardens at Gilbert White's House were interesting and obviously cared for but would have benefitted from a little more investment - bearing in mind his interest in the natural world. 

Autumn Crocus at Selborne

This artifact, known as a wine pipe, was designed and built by Gilbert White. White built a haha in front of the house and used the excavated soil to form a mound on which this contraption sat. Made from an old wine barrelon a rotating base, it gave White a 360-degree view whilst remainng hidden. 

Wine Pipe at Gilbert White's House and Garden

Gilbert White's Wine Pipe

After enjoying tea and cake at Gilbert White's House, we moved on to Marlborough and an overnight stay at the Castle and Ball Hotel, a Grade II listed building. The River Kennet, a tributary of the River Thames, runs through Marlborough...

River Kennet at Marlborough

The River Kennet is an example of a chalk stream, one of only 200 in the world - and 170 of them are in the England!

The journey from Marlborough back to Hereford included a stop at the Avebury World Heritage Site

Avebury Stone Circle

Arriving at the car park, just time for a veggie sausage sandwich, cooked in the campervan, and a cup of tea...

Preparing breakfast at Avebury Car Park

...that proved fortuitous as the catering facilities at the Herotage Site were closed.

First port of call was Avebury Manor where a timed ticketing system was in operation. This 16th Century manor had many different occupants  before it was bought by the National Trust in 1991. Very few, if any, historical artifacts came with the building. Under such circumstances, the National Trust would bring in period items to furnish the house. An approach by the BBC to refurbish the house/garden for a TV programme was too good to turn down. The Manor Reborn was aired on the BBC in December 2011. At the time of posting this blog, it was not available on the BBC but you can find the episodes on YouTube. One of the stipulations made by the BBC was that artifacts could be picked up, touched, sat on, examined and, generally, wo(man)handled. You could even pot a few snooker balls if you wished. Though you might be escorted from the premises if you were found using this...

18th Century Commode

Rooms are furnished in five different styles: Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and 20th Century.
This particular item was from the Georgian period...

...and is an exercise chair or chamber horse. The sprung seat was meant to simulate horseriding so you wouldn't miss out on your daily exercise if the weather was inclement. A forerunner of the Pelaton, I guess.

The Avebury Manor Gardens are very good and we had the benefit of a sculpture exhibition when we were there.

Grape Vine in Avebury Manor Gardens

Finally, a walk around the largest stone circle in the world with its impressive ditch and bank - originally, the ditch was 6 metres deep and bank 6 metres high - built using Neolithic tools.

Avebury Ditch and Bank

The largest Standing Stone?

As you walk around the circle, you will come across four copper beech trees; supposedly the inspiration for JRR Tolkien's walking trees (Ents) in The Lord of the Rings. The network of roots is mesmerising...

View from the Rear Window - August 2022

The last month of meteorological summer and what a summer it has been. Record temperatures and one of the driest summers I can remember. Towards the end of the month, cooler overnight temperatures signal autumn is not far away. According to the Met Office, the summer of 2022 was the joint hottest (equal to 2018) and the sixth driest on record (since 1836) for England.

Quite a few plants suffered in the garden; mostly hidden from view in these photographs where the shades of green belie the stress experienced by the trees and plants...

Back garden on 5th August 2022

By the middle of the month, the garden has a little more colour...

Back garden on 15th August

...before the roses and fuchsias begin their display...

Back garden on 30th August

Jobs in the Kitchen Garden
  1. Harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes, raspberries, blackberries, salad leaves and lettuce, celery, potatoes, French beans, Bell peppers, spinach, Swiss chard, aubergines (eggplants), calabrese, Jalopeno chillies, pears, apples, radishes
  2. Lift onions (red & white) for storing
  3. Watering kitchen garden and polytunnel
  4. Making, sieving and using compost
  5. Sow broad beans for autumn crop
  6. Pruning apple, plum and pear trees
August 2022 Weather

Selected weather parameters for August 2022 are summarised below. On average, August was warmer than July despite lower maximum and minimum temperatures. A little more rain than August but nowhere near enough. 

August 2022

Weather Parameter



Average Monthly Temperature 

20 oC

Maximum Monthly Temperature

36 oC

13th, 14th

Minimum Monthly Temperature

7 oC


Number of Air Frost Days


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)


Monthly Precipitation

18.6 mm

Greatest 24 h Precipitation

14.6 mm

16th - 17th

Number of Dry Days


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)


Average Wind Speed

3 km/h

Highest Wind Speed

29 km/h


Maximum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1030.9 hPa


Minimum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1001.2 hPa


Average Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1018.2 hPa

Daily maximum and minimum temperatures for August 2022 are displayed in the bar chart below [click for larger image]. August 2022 was the hottest month (average temperature = 20 ℃) in the last 3 years - followed by July 2021 and, last month, July 2022 (both 19 ℃). Despite a few uncomfortable nights, sleeping was generally easier than last month.

Daily rainfall and average solar radiation values (proxy for sunshine hours) for August 2022 are summarised in the next bar chart [click for larger image]. The first half of the month was extremely hot and sunny while the second half was merely warm with sunny periods. What rain there was came mainly in the middle of the month.

As usual, I compare selected weather parameters for August over the last three years. August 2022 was the warmest in this short series mainly due to the higher daily maxima.

For the 2020 - 2022 period, this August was also the driest and sunniest.
Some plants may have benefited from the hot dry weather but quite a few suffered - cucumbers, peppers, blueberries, and raspberries for example.

Dessicated Blueberry Bush

Finally, a few photographs from the August garden:

A decent crop of rowanberries if the blackbird doesn't eat them all

Our resident frog is still around

Courgettes and Mini-Marrows

Pitcher Perfect?

Bee in Salvia

Venus Fly Trap Flowers

Echinops in the Secret/Wild Garden

Footlong Aubergines

Cyclamen under the Acer

Calabrese for dinner

Comice Pear Harvest

Broad Bean and Leek Update (Sept 15th)

 I am currently trialling late-sowing of leeks and broad beans to see if this avoids the worst of the pests. See here, here, and here for previous posts. This is what the Leek and Broad Bean bed looked like on 15th September...

Leek and Broad Bean Bed

I had just hand-weeded the bed and collected a couple of litres of weeds...

Collected weeds ex-broad bean/leek plot

...headed straight for the hot composting bin. A couple of unwelcome sights...

Cat droppings

Remains of Cabbage White Butterfly

Perhaps the cabbage white was one of those seen 'dancing' in late August?

Broad Bean Update:

The double row of broad beans (Luc De Otono) - on the left - was sown on 16th August and watered regularly (every 2-3 days) until the young plants broke through the soil surface. Beans were sown about two inches deep, watered in, and covered with sieved compost.

The triple row of beans - on the right - was sown on the 30th August. Germination rates were slightly lower than with the first sowing.

At the end of August, a minor infestation of blackfly was noted on some of the first sown plants. This was, literally, nipped in the bud by pinching out the growing tips and spraying all the plants in the double row with SB Invigorator - a biodegradable organic pest control with foliar feed. The blackfly has not returned so far but I keep a vigilant watch.

So far, there has been no sign of blackfly in the later sown broad beans (triple row) possibly because the days, and especially the nights, are much cooler.

While it is great to have pest-free broad beans, the real test is whether the plants will have sufficient time to produce flowers and pods this autumn. I will post an update when I know!

Leek Update:

So far, I am really happy with the way the leeks are progressing. Touch wood, there are no signs of the usual pests and the plants look very healthy. We have reduced the length of the growing season so I'm expecting smaller mature plants. That would be a success in my books because in previous years the whole crop has been wiped out by pests.

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