Celtic Tree Month of Elder


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We are just into the Celtic Tree month of Elder, an enchanting small tree…

‘The tree is said to have within itself the ‘Elder Mother’, called Elle or Hyldemoer in Scandinavian and Danish myth. She is said to work strong earth magic and according to legend, avenged all who harmed her host trees.  No forester of old would touch elder, let alone cut it, before asking the Elder Mother’s permission three times over and even then he was still in dread of her possible wrath.  Likewise, in many country districts of Europe and Britain, wise people will show respect by touching their hats when passing elder trees, in continuance of ancient custom.  Certain North American tribes also believe that elder is the Mother of the human race.

According to legend, witches would often turn themselves into elder trees, and one famous witch-tree turned a king and his men to stone, thereby creating the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, England.  This ancient piece of folklore tells of a Danish king, on his way to battle for the English Crown with his warriors, meeting the witch and asking her what his fate would be. The witch replied:

Seven long strides thou shalst take,

And if Long Compton though canst see

King of England thou thalst be.’

Source: ‘Tree Wisdom’ by Jacqueline Memory Paterson


In a field near me – July 2014 – these are the plots.



The view above shows the approach to the first of the meadow plots, which has been called ‘A’. From this angle the first plot gives a pleasing view of what may be ‘things to come’.

The ten meadow plots are experimental. They have been sown with a variety of native grasses and flowers, many of which are bi-ennial (i.e. flowering in the second year after planting). If you look back at the pictures I took last year, you will be able to see the difference a year makes.

The plots are part of a major research project into improving urban biodiversity.

Luton Borough Council staff are cultivating a variety of seed mixes at this site and managing the meadows using different mowing frequencies. Researchers from Cranfield, Sheffield and Exeter Universities are monitoring the sites.

Here is the first of the plots up close:



and the second (B). At first siting I didn’t like this one very much. It is brown(ish). After I’d studied it for a while, I decided I did like it after all but I wouldn’t want to see a whole field full of it. Of course that is not the idea. When the designers take over, there will be areas of planting and areas of mown grass because the object of the exercise is to create an urban environment which is beautiful and useful to people, animals and insects alike.

Plot B is mainly grasses, as you can see:



Next is plot C. This looked like a weed patch to me and I wouldn’t want to see more of it. However I’m sure there are plenty of insects who would not agree with me.

One of the considerations being taken into account is whether or not the plots are likely to attract unwelcome wildlife and/or litter. I think this one would welcome litter!



Plot D I thought was very nice. The plants were not too high, lots of variety, colourful and certainly popular with bees and flying insects. So plot D got the thumbs up from me.



Plot E on the other hand, was not attractive. Again it looked like a weed path; bearing in mind that a weed is just a prolific plant in the wrong place. Most of the plants in this plot were going to seed. There wasn’t much colour to be seen and I think litter would easily blow into it.



Plot F was a nothing sort of plot. I don’t know if that was deliberate, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t think it was an improvement on just mown grass.



Plot G was my favourite. It was bursting with colour and interest. On the downside the plants were big – taller than me, some of them and I’m 5 ft. 6 inches tall. A whole field of this selection would look gorgeous but be totally impractical I think.



Plot H was another no-no to me. Another weed patch in the making although there were some rather attractive field poppies in there. I think they had sown themselves.

DSCF1984When I counted the number of plants in each plot, I found that there were an average of six different varieties in each plot. I don’t know if that was deliberate but it probably was intended.

The intention is to cut all the plots down to ground level at the end of the summer.  This will encourage new and healthy growth to come in the new season.

So there we are. I may take some more pics before the end of the summer, but I doubt if they would be much different. If anything new happens, I’ll let you know.

Enjoy your environment as much as you can for as long as you can.



In a field near me – July 2014

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Last year an experiment began in a field near me. The experiment is being run by a nearby University and is ongoing. The idea of it is to plant up areas of wild flowers in urban areas to see what effect that has on our wildlife. Before the experiment, the field near me was just grass, cut once a week and available for use by the public who live nearby. The main use of it was for children to play football and for dog owners to exercise their pets. I don’t remember seeing anything else much going on there. I wrote about it in a blog post here.

Now here we are a year later and lots of changes have occurred on the ten plots. Looking at them today I can see many more plants and flowers. A lot of the plants from last year are bi-ennials so only came to flower this summer. Here are the plants which have been planted:

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Larry got this picture with his camera-phone and took it whilst on his knees in the field. The original belonged to one of the students who was reluctant to part with it today. Tomorrow I’ll see if I can get my own copy, then Larry can take  a better pic. Meanwhile it is good to have because at least the words are clear and we can always to to Wikip… and get a better picture.

The students are handing out survey forms and asking all our neighbours to take a look at the plots and see which ones are most appealing to look at. I can see how important this is because we are all so used to seeing manicured lawns with flat, green grass and nothing much else except the dandelions, daisies and buttercups.

It is so important that we encourage our wildlife to return to our urban spaces that we must learn to find space for them and learn to live with the difference in our environment.

At the moment the plots are slap bang in the middle of the grassy areas but in the longterm I suppose they will be moved to the edges and become part of the landscape.

In a field near me…

A2PLNT38 I have been watching the plots in a field near me, over the last few months in order to see what is growing and doing well and what is struggling. Unfortunately, I cannot give you the names of the plants yet, but I can tell you a bit more about the project, taken from their website here.Quote,In November (2012) we had a meeting with partners from Councils in Bedford and Luton, and the Parks Trust in Milton Keynes, to identify sites for the experimental meadow plantings which are a part of workpackage 4 of the project: experimental manipulations of biodiversity and ecosystem function. We are identifying sites in which up to 9 different mixtures of grasses and herbaceous plants – creating different structures and species diversity – can be established, to examine their effect on invertebrate biodiversity, aesthetic value, and soil performance compared to the mown amenity grassland which would otherwise be there, and at the same time, their sustainability from a land management perspective. Can biodiversity and function be improved, while also being more cost effective to maintain? +++ f3ues-meadow-1-2013 Overall, the plots have been very well received by the local public which has been reflected in comments from interested people coming to ask questions and from a series of surveys that have been undertaken by the F3UES team. People seem to particularly appreciate the conversion from cut-grass to colourful flower displays. Comments include: “I love the flowers; better than cut grass” and “Nice to see flowers; a bit of colour”. More detailed examinations of people’s responses to the plots will be explored in the coming months through discussion groups, and we look forward to seeing the plots develop their full potential over the next year. Progress and preliminary results were shared at a gathering of the principal local partners at a stakeholder meeting at Cranfield University in September where there was very positive feedback and productive discussions. The active involvement, interest and enthusiasm brought to the project by partners – in particular the Councils’ involvement with the meadow experiments – has been invaluable, and we look forward to sharing the results with them.’ end of quote

Recently the plots near me have been ploughed up. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

By the way, I think you are right about the wild carrot, Loren. It looks like one to me too.


My English Country Garden – In a field near me.

In a field near me there is something exciting going on. Read the sign below to find out what…


The field was sectioned off and planted with all sorts of wildflowers. Now the results are beginning to show. How many of these plants can you recognise?

No. 1DSCF1477


No. 2 – red flowers


No.3 white flowers


No. 4 yellow flowers


No. 5


No. 6DSCF1483 No. 7



No. 9


No. 10


No. 11


No.12 blue flowers


No. 13 pink flowers

They might look like weeds to you, but to the insects, birds, butterflies and bees, they are a valuable source of food.

I’ll be returning to this later on.

Meanwhile enjoy your trip through the flower meadows.


The Blossom is out – finally!


I took a short walk around the neighbourhood the other day and was so pleased to notice that the blossom is out – at last!

But wait a moment? What’s going on here? They’re digging up the playing field?


There are eight plots like this one, all dug up and ready for planting. Whatever is going on?


I walked a bit further and then I noticed the sign.  All is explained.


What a great idea! So I will be returning to see how they’re getting on and of course I’ll keep you fully informed…

and if you want to read more, you can visit the website, which is here