Monthly Archives: March 2023

A Blustery Day in Milborne St Andrew

So, Dear Readers, today saw me boarding the X12 bus in Dorchester to go to Milborne St Andrew and to visit St Andrew’s Church, where Mum and Dad’s ashes were buried. It’s usually so peaceful there, but today there was the sound of many lambs. Mum would have loved it.

Whenever I visit I remove the plants which are clearly dead, shift the ones that are still alive around, and pop in the new ones that I’ve bought. Then I try to cut back the plants that are growing over the memorial stone, but this time I forgot my garden scissors, so it isn’t as neat as I’d like. This time, I bought some pinks, some violas, some aubretia and a lupin, and kept the hellebores and the achillea from my last visit, even though they were looking a bit tired. The stone itself is looking very discoloured, but I’m not sure what to do – I don’t want to use bleach or anything else that will interfere with the plants and soil-life. Maybe a scrubbing brush and some soap will do the trick, what do you think?

 

I love the way that the primroses and lesser celandine have naturalised all over the churchyard. It’s magical. I always plonk down under the cherry tree next to the grave and just wait for the tears to come, and then for the peace to wash over me, which it always does. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my chest.

And look how the wind is shaking the yew trees, and how the birds are singing above the sound of the breeze.

And then I head off for a cup of coffee (and some cake) with my friend E, who will be 90 this year, and who always tells me all the village gossip. It seems that the new curate is settling in, and E herself has mostly recovered from a fall that she had in her precipitous garden, which would daunt a mountain goat. But on the way, I notice something.

That looks rather like a nest, don’t you think? I pause to see what will happen.

Here is a jackdaw with a twig in his or her mouth.

S/he notices me and flies up onto the roof. That’s a very fine twig!

I decide to back off and see what s/he does…and what it seems to involve is sticking some twigs in, and then taking another one away.

Making a nest is clearly not a straightforward matter – all the twigs look the same to me, but I suspect that the bird inside the building is rather more particular than the one outside about what makes a good place to lay eggs and rear youngsters. How nice it is to see that the jackdaws have found somewhere to nest, even though so many buildings are no longer suitable, and so many chimneys are blocked up.

And then it’s back on the bus, and back to Dorchester, and tomorrow it’s back to London. But how I love these short visits to Milborne St Andrew. The time I spend with Mum and Dad seems to recharge my batteries faster than anything else that I do. It’s as if there’s a thinning of the veil between worlds here, and as if the love that we felt for one another is able to radiate through like a kind of heat, maybe especially today because Dad died on 31st March 2020, at the start of the pandemic. They say that love never dies, and maybe it doesn’t.

Mum at the Royal Oak pub in Milborne St Andrew in 2012

Dad as ‘Captain Tom’, steering a boat from Weymouth to Portland in 2019

The Kindness of Strangers

Dear Readers, why, you might ask, is the blog featuring a rather unassuming-looking sandwich bar today? Well, I am in Dorchester, and it’s always hard – Dorset has so many memories of when Mum and Dad were alive. When I travel through Moreton station, I can almost see the pair of them standing on the platform waiting for my train to arrive, Dad would be in his zip-up jacket, Mum in some combination of bright fuchsia and turquoise and both of  them would be wearing  those photochromatic spectacles that go dark at the first sign of sunshine. They always reminded me of a pair of mature and successful bank robbers taking a break from Marbella. And now, no one waits for me at the station, and yet I always find myself looking for them, or for some trace of them.

So, by the time I get to the next station along, Dorchester South, I am often a little downhearted. And then there’s the walk past the care home where Mum and Dad spent their last months. I always pause to look up at the window on the third floor which was Dad’s room, as if I expect him to be watching for me, or at least for my bright red coat. Towards the end, I think he recognised the coat more than he did me, but I take comfort that he always knew that I was someone who was special to him for some reason, and someone who cared about him.

Today, I jumped on the train before I had a chance to buy any lunch, and all this remembering had made me hungry, so I stopped at the Pic-Nick sandwich bar. It’s tiny, really just a counter and a space to wait, but the man working there made me a massive ham and mustard roll (for some reason my vegetarianism goes right out of the window here). And then, he asked me if I wanted any salad.

“No thank you”, I said. I always feel as if I need all the carbohydrates and fat that I can get.

And he hesitated, and then he said “Oh, go on, have some iceberg lettuce at least, it’s good for you, and we all need the vitamins. It’s not any extra”.

And I thought, you know what, I do need the vitamins. I never thought of myself as being a disordered eater, but just lately I do wonder. It’s as if I can make the effort to make healthy meals for other people, but when it’s just me I don’t bother.

He was waiting for me to make a decision.

“Yes, please”, I said, and he looked so delighted that I felt as I’d done him a favour, instead of the other way round.

Why should a complete stranger care about someone else’s health? And care enough to risk a rebuff? What a lovely man. And it was the most delicious roll that I’ve had in a long time (and a lot cheaper than the equivalent would have been in London).

And so, if you are ever in Dorchester and looking for a sandwich, I can recommend the Pic-Nick on Allington Street, just round the corner from the Tutankhamun exhibition and the art shop. And if I was you I would definitely include some salad, because we all need some more vitamins.

 

She Nose You Know!

Dear Readers, earlier this week I was sharing the story of my CT scan, for which I am still awaiting my results. However, on Sunday I took a trip to Barnet Hospital to their Ear, Nose and Throat department, so that the consultant could have a look at my vocal cords – one of the symptoms of my cough has been hoarseness/a change in my voice, so the doctor wanted to make sure that all is well in that department.

Well, I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, and just as well because I would have worried myself silly about it, but I didn’t expect to get a camera poked up my nose.

However, although I was initially a little perturbed (who wouldn’t be, at the sight of someone fixing a tiny camera to a massively long, thin rubber tube), I am here to report that it was actually completely fine – a bit strange, but not painful, and actually easier than your average nasal lateral flow test. The camera has a little light attached, and the consultant looked at the images on the screen and took some photos. When he asked me if I wanted to see them I positively elbowed him out of the way in my excitement, because who wouldn’t want to see their vocal cords? And they are apparently completely normal, which means that that’s one less thing to be concerned about.

The vocal cords are actually very complicated organs, comprising five different layers of tissue. The whole thing is susceptible to influence from hormones, particularly testosterone: this chemical changes the size and musculature of the vocal cords, which is why the pitch of a male’s voice changes when he reaches puberty. In addition, genetic factors will determine whether we’re a soprano or a basso profondo, though vocal training can extend our range. Sadly, we don’t have a syrinx, a very special organ that birds have, so our chances of twittering or hooting or warbling are rather limited.

So here we are. What a week it’s been! I’ve been irradiated, punctured (twice) and now invaded. But how grateful I am for all the care that I’ve experienced this week. And it’s reminded me of how much I love London –  I have been tended by such varied people, all of whom have made London their home, and we are all all the richer for it. I will keep you posted on my results, but tomorrow I am heading to Dorset, for a much wished-for rest, and a chance to visit Mum and Dad’s grave. I always find it so peaceful there, and so restorative. I know how interested Mum would have been in all these medical procedures – she was a real NHS warrior, and there weren’t many things that she hadn’t endured – and yet she was always so curious about what was happening. I wish I could sit down and discuss them with her, over a cup of tea and piece of cake like we used to.

Watch the Skies (Again)

Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba) PhotoB y Lefteris Stavrakas – Βουνοσταχτάρα , CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66012392

Dear Readers, here in the UK we don’t expect the screech of swifts until mid May at the earliest, but this year we have been visited by record numbers of alpine swifts  (Tachymarptis melba). Normally, these birds fly north from southern Africa and then nest in mountainous regions from the Alps to the Himalayas (hence the name), but this year hundreds have been blown further north. One was spotted at Walthamstow Wetlands this weekend but they’ve been popping up as far north as northern Scotland. They are most distinctive with their white tummies, though I suppose at a glance you could mistake them for a large house martin. However, they really are a lot bigger than your average house martin, and the wings are generally held in a boomerang shape, the better for scything through the air.

Like all swifts, these birds spend most of their lives on the wing, landing only to nest – one radio-tagged alpine swift was found to stay on the wing for 200 days straight. For preference, they will use the same nest that they used last year, much as ‘our’ swifts do – it saves a lot of energy not to have to recreate a mud nest every year. Plus, they use plenty of energy on their migration, as you can see from the map below – the birds breed in the green bits, and often rest for a bit in the blue bits. This year they’ve clearly literally gone the extra mile. Yet another reason not to ‘tidy away’ any swift nests that you have under your eaves (not that any reader of Bugwoman would think of such a thing, I’m sure!)

Swifts seem so full of joie de vivre to me – they ‘talk’ to one another constantly, chase one another, circle high after the insects that they eat and then shoot across your deckchair when you’re having a snooze, almost brushing you with their wings. There is some thought that maybe, with climate change, the southern region of the bird’s range is becoming too hot, and that they might breed further north. Everything is clearly on the move, and I wait with some interest to see what will happen next. And in the meantime, here are some alpine swifts calling as they fly – it’s a slightly different call from the common swift who will arrive later in the year. Here’s the alpine swift (recording by Stanislas Wroza)

And here’s ‘our’ swift, recording by Michel Veldt.

Doesn’t it feel as if summer is coming? So, keep watching the skies. Even if you don’t spot an alpine swift, the swallows and martins will be along soon.

And this is a very interesting article on the appearance of the alpine swifts, for those of you who want a bit more detail.

Alpine swifts illustration from the Crossley ID guide

 

 

A CT Scan

A Siemens CT Scanner

Dear Readers, as you might remember I have had a persistent cough since November last year, and a week ago I was finally persuaded to go to the doctor. Being the responsible person that she is, she has sent me for a battery of blood tests and other procedures just to check that my lungs and throat are ok (I’ve been having trouble with my voice as well). Well, on Friday I went for my first ever CT scan, so I thought I’d share the experience with you in case you have to have one at any point. Plus, since I’m doing a science degree I was fascinated with what was going on, which I find is a great help with all this medical stuff – knowledge helps to alleviate at least some of the anxiety, for me at least.

So, first up, what exactly is a CT scan? The CT stands for computed tomography (it used to be computed axial tomography, hence CAT scan, which I like better). It is basically an X-ray, but the X-ray tube rotates to give ‘slices’ of the body, which can then be put together by computer to form a 3-D picture of what’s going on inside the body. You can see some examples of the sorts of images produced here. It takes a skilled technician to identify areas of concern.

A CT scan is similar to an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, but a CT scan can be used if you have a pacemaker or metallic implant. The CT scan is used to detect a variety of abnormalities, from cancer to emphysema and fibrosis, conditions which can’t be picked up on a normal X-ray.

One downside to CT scans is, of course, that you’re subjected to radiation, and rather more than you would be for a normal chest X-ray. However, as you get older the risk gets less (radiation-induced tumours often take many decades to develop). As this is the first one that I’ve ever had, and as it would be kind of good to know if I do have anything serious, I decided that it was worth the tiny risk.

Now, because my doctor has put me on the two-week referral list (just in case) my appointments have come through in advance of any details of what was going to happen, so let me just run through how it was for me, in case anyone hasn’t had a CT scan. First up, don’t wear any necklaces or underwired bras as you’ll need to take them off prior to the scan, though you can keep all your clothes on (no embarrassing open-backed hospital gowns). Secondly, be aware that you might need to be injected with an iodine-based dye to help with the resolution of the images  – I was told that when the dye was injected, I would feel hot and might feel as if I wanted to pee. This was all very exciting.

I was asked to lay on the bed with my feet towards what I think of as ‘the magic arch’ in the photo above. Then my first-ever cannula was stuck into a vein on my right wrist, and as I’m 63 years old I count myself extremely lucky that I haven’t had to have one before. However, it was no more painful than a usual blood extraction. Then I was asked to put my hands above my head, and everyone went off and left me.

For the CT scan itself,  the bed moves under the ‘magic arch’ where the X-ray machine is, and a kindly female voice from the machine tells you to breathe in and hold, and then breath normally. I thought I could also hear my heart beating, so presumably that’s being monitored from somewhere or other. Then, the voice of the technician came through, telling me he was going to inject the dye via the cannula. He was absolutely right! For a moment there was nothing, but then there was a feeling of intense heat in my abdomen and, yes, an urge to pee (which I didn’t indulge). It only lasted a second, then there were one or two more rounds of breathing in and holding and breathing normally as requested, and then it was all done, and I was gathering up my belongings and heading home on the 263 bus.

So, I should get the results in about ten days time, just before Easter. I am honestly not expecting anything bad to come out of this – I’m 90% sure this is just some kind of post-viral nonsense, but I am very glad that my doctor is checking it out, if only because some of the people who care about me are very anxious. And if you are called for a CT scan, be aware that it’s nothing to worry about. Just leave your bra off 🙂 and leave the tiara and medallions at home.

 

 

Old Bugwoman’s Almanac – April Updated

Two April nuthatches in Coldfall Wood

Dear Readers, how can it possibly be almost April already? But judging by all the goings on in the garden, it definitely is. My frogs are delayed this year, so the frogspawn has only just arrived, but in ponds up and down the country tadpoles are already appearing. This is a wonderful, blowsy, blustery month when you never know what’s going on from one day to the next. Plus, here in the UK, the clocks went forwards at 1 a.m. this morning, which means it will be lighter in the evening but darker in the morning. Still, an hour’s lost sleep is a small price to pay for all the plants that will be flowering and the migrants that will be arriving this month. 

So, here is Old Bugwoman’s Almanac for April. Let me know if you have anything planned locally and I’ll pop it into the list below. 

Dear Readers, April is when everything really kicks off in the natural world – birds are singing and nestbuilding and raising their youngsters, the woods are full of spring ephemerals, the nights are shorter and even us oldies have a surprising bounce in our step. So let’s see what the month should have in store for us here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Things to Do

  • An exhibition by Slovak artist Maria Bartuszová runs at Tate Modern until 16th April – she is inspired by the natural world and produces delicate plaster sculptures inspired by everything from seeds to raindrops. Well worth a look.
  • Camley Street Natural Park is running two family weekends in April, on Sunday 9th and Sunday 23rd April from 1.00 p.m to 4 p.m. Both are free, and you don’t need to book. Pond-dipping seems to be involved! Camley Street punches well above its weight in terms of biodiversity and interest, and there’s a splendid café, which also helps
  • A walk in any of the Royal Parks should be rewarding in April, as the trees come into blossom and the bulbs put on a show.
  • Kew is spectacular at any time, but spring is really something. Plus, they are running a one-day course called ‘Right Plant, Right Place’ on 4th April which sounds very interesting.
  • Bluebells! There are several places around London to spot them, including the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, Wanstead Park in East London, Eltham Palace Gardens and good old Highgate Wood, which is just around the corner from me. I just hope that the bulbs survived the Covid trampling.
  • The London Natural History free virtual talk this month is on ‘The Marine World’ by expert Dr Francis Dipper, and you can book here.

Plants for Pollinators

Apple blossom is the RHS’s suggested key plant for pollinators this month, and the bee to watch out for is the red mason bee, a small bee that nests in crumbling masonry and holes in bricks, along with bee hotels. This species is very important for the pollination of orchard fruit.

Red mason bee (Osmia bicornis/rufa)

Other suggested plants for April include Phacelia, Aquilegia (Granny’s Bonnet), Bugle, Wood spurge, Berberis and Cherry.

Bird Behaviour

  • The dawn chorus (and indeed, singing throughout the day) is in full swing now – it’s been estimated that for many species, such as blackbirds, a break in this territorial singing of more than a day will result in another as yet unpaired blackbird taking over the territory. I was a bit rude about the male wren yesterday, but of course losing the territory holder can be disastrous for females already with eggs or chicks, as in some species the youngsters will be killed by any incoming males, and in others the female relies on the male to provision her during incubation and chick rearing.
  • Many hole-nesting birds, such as stock doves, the nuthatches in the photo at the top of the post and ring-necked parakeets will be competing for hollow trees, often with a lot of shrieking and general carry-on.
  • Great Spotted Woodpeckers will be drumming – this isn’t about excavating a nest, it’s all about announcing territory.
  • Listen out for the chiffchaff. These inconspicuous little warblers are amongst the first migrants to arrive, probably because it’s only travelling from the Mediterranean rather than Africa, and soon the countryside will be ringing with their repetitive songs.
  • The first swallows should arrive early in April, with the House Martins appearing towards the end of the month.
  • Blackcaps, whitethroats, yellow wagtails and cuckoos can all be seen towards the end of the month if the weather is favourable. Of course, some blackcaps are now choosing to stay put (there are a pair in my garden as I write this), so they won’t all have travelled a long way, but their song is always such a joy.

Just in case you’re missing April birdsong, here are a few to listen out for later in the year.

First up, the chiffchaff (Recording by Michel Veldt in the Netherlands)

Next up, the blackcap. What a lovely song this is! The recording is by Ulf Elman in Sweden.

And finally, here’s a common whitethroat, again recorded by Michel Veldt.

I wish I had a better ear for birdsong – I find the warblers generally very tricky to tell apart, except for the simple song of the chiffchaff. Do let me know how you do it, if you are able to differentiate between the different species in the field! For me, it’s a kind of superpower.

Plants in Flower

All the spring ephemerals should be out by now – crocuses, lesser celandine, wood anemone, bluebells (which will continue until May in a good year) and primroses and oxlips. Cow parsley, garlic mustard, blackthorn, wayfaring tree, three-cornered garlic and ramsons, alexanders and hawthorn, stinking iris and grape hyacinth, forget-me-not and marsh marigold should all be in flower, if previous years are any guide.

Other Things to Watch/Listen Out For

  • Tadpoles should be numerous by now, and if you are lucky enough to have newts in your pond you may see them courting, the males whipping their tails backwards and forwards
  • Brimstone and orange-tip butterflies are around, plus speckled woods and peacock butterflies emerging from hibernation
  • Fox cubs are just emerging from their den, so if you are extremely lucky and know where an earth is, you might catch sight of them sunning themselves or playing.
  • Full moon is on 6th April, and is known as the Seed Moon, the Budding Moon or the New Shoots Moon. It’s also known as the Paschal Moon, and in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the Paschal Moon. So, in 2023, Easter Sunday will be Sunday 9th April.

Holidays and Celebrations

  • Passover begins at sundown on April 5th
  • 9th April is Christian Easter Sunday
  • 14th April is St Tiburtius’s Day, and is officially when cuckoos start singing, so keep your ears open!
  • 16th April – Orthodox Easter Sunday
  • 21st April – Eid al-Fitr (Islamic celebration of the end of Ramadan) starts on the first sighting of the crescent moon.
  • 23rd April – the start of the English asparagus season. Hooray!

 

Red List – Nineteen – Grasshopper Warbler

Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia) Photo By Dr. Raju Kasambe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37252857

Dear Readers, the grasshopper warblers will soon be arriving in the UK (if they’re not here already), but it’s likely that you’ve never seen one unless you are a very dedicated birdwatcher – these are extremely shy, cryptically coloured birds, quintessential ‘little brown jobs’. You might well have heard one, though, without realising it, because this bird isn’t named after a susurrating insect for nothing. This recording is from the Netherlands, by Michel Veldt.

Listening to the song makes me wonder just how much energy this small bird must use to call at this intensity for such a long time. It’s astonishing. The bird can keep up this call for two to three minutes without so much as pausing for breath. My Crossley Guide describes it as a ‘fast reeling trill (actually 26 double notes per second) on constant pitch – it also sounds like a cyclist freewheeling‘.  It’s all the more surprising that the bird can keep this up when you consider that grasshopper warblers have already flown all the way from north and west Africa.

Furthermore, the male displays by running along twigs with his wings and tail spread, often carrying a twig or leaf in his beak as an added incentive. The nest is built low to the ground in reedbeds or other dense foliage, and herein lies one reason for their drastic decline over the past few decades – wetlands are drained, water is polluted, and as the birds are insectivorous there is also the decline in insect populations to consider. Both parents incubate and rear the nestlings here in the UK before the whole family flies south again for the winter, and fortunately overall the species is doing well, with a range that encompasses much of temperate Europe and Central Asia. As we’ve seen time and time again, it is the UK that is losing (and has lost) much of its wildlife. In the words of beloved David Attenborough, we are the most nature-depleted country in Europe.

Male grasshopper warbler displaying (Photo by Paul Brady from https://community.rspb.org.uk/placestovisit/deeestuary/m/deeestuary-mediagallery/500592)

The song of the grasshopper warbler is at exactly the frequency of sound that we tend to lose the ability to hear as we get older. And so, here’s a second excerpt for those of us who still can hear it. How sad it would be if even those with young ears weren’t able to hear this strange summer sound, because the bird that makes it no longer visits us? This excerpt was recorded by Irish Wildlife Sounds on Cahore Marsh in Ireland.

A Blustery Day at Walthamstow Wetlands

Dear Readers, does anything dance quite like a weeping willow? There weren’t many people at Walthamstow Wetlands today, what with the threat of rain and the windy weather, but the path between reservoirs 2 and 4 was open (it’s often close to protect nesting birds), and the willows were covered in catkins.

I love the way that the stems blow in the wind. The trees remind me a bit of great green mammoths.

Weeping willows love water, and so often they’re planted in the wrong place – they can take over a damp garden, sucking up the groundwater and causing all sorts of urban problems. But here, they are in their element, and  these are majestic specimens, each one with its own character.

I was walking with a friend who is laden with many troubles, but these trees stopped both of us in our tracks. For a few moments, both of us were speechless (which is unusual for us, believe me). This is what the natural world can do – it somehow reaches through our cares and worries, and shows us something else, something that is timeless and that shows us that life carries on even when our own worlds are falling apart.

Further along the path, we see an island where the cormorants are nesting. Again, this part of the reserve is cut off for much of the year.

Look at those enormous nests! Interestingly, until 1981, cormorants were almost exclusively coastal breeders. Then, a small population were found nesting in the trees at a site in Essex, and since then they’ve expanded their range across many sites in southern England. Coastal populations tend to have all their chicks at the same time, presumably to overwhelm predators so that at least some survive. At sites such as Walthamstow Wetlands, however, the breeding season is much more spread out, as predation is less of a risk (probably one reason for choosing an island site, where there’s less danger from foxes and cats) but availability of food might be more of a problem, so it makes sense for the nestlings to be at different stages of development.

Judging by the size of the nests, I’d say that they’re built up over a period of years. In very dense nesting sites, the volume of droppings can be a problem – eventually, the chemicals in the guano can kill the nesting trees. Maybe some enterprising person could harvest it for fertiliser once the nesting season is over.

Anyhow, at this point it started to rain in earnest, and so we retraced our steps and headed home, slightly damp but definitely refreshed. I can’t wait to visit again!

There is No Such Thing as Too Many Frogs

Goodness, Readers, I hope you aren’t sick of the sight of frogs yet, because this really is a bumper year as you can see from the volume of frogspawn. Someone asked me earlier how many adult frogs I was expecting from all those eggs, but the sad story is that from each blob, probably only one or two will survive to adulthood – between the dragonfly larvae and other insects that prey on the tadpoles and developing eggs, plus the other dangers that are inherent in being a small, defenceless animal with literally no way of protecting yourself, most will never get out of the pond. On the other hand, if they all did survive I would end up waste-deep in froggies, so maybe nature knows best.

They are all croaking away, but there’s too much background noise to hear them, sadly. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

And in a few short days most of the adults will have disappeared, and then the eggs will hatch. This time really is a marker of spring for me, along with the clocks going forward for us in the UK on Saturday. The days are getting longer, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

 

Exciting Times in East Finchley

Dear Readers, there have been a number of developments in East Finchley which aim to improve the local environment, and to provide both the human and animal members of the community with something to enjoy. First up is the Leopold Road Neighbourhood Garden, which has been built in an unloved spot, and which now provides seating, plants for pollinators and a very fine bug hotel.

This is the area as it was prior to the redesign.

There’s now a fine mural, some nice new benches and some excellent brickwork.

And a lot of plants that will provide nectar and pollen for pollinators and other insects, with hellebores and cyclamen in flower now, and what looks like a mimosa just about to burst into bloom.

There’s a super-sized bug hotel made out of pallets, and some mahonia for winter nectar and berries for birds.

There’s also an information board, explaining the history of the area ( there was a pig market held in The Market Place just around the corner, with animals driven from far and wide). I love that this was a collaboration between local people and the council, and it is just the kind of ‘pocket park’ that can make all the difference.

In Market Place itself, The Friends of Market Place Playground (now part of the East Finchley Community Trust) have been working to improve the small park and children’s playground – it was a dangerous, litter-strewn spot, with damaged play equipment and broken glass. This group has made a huge difference – when I passed there seemed to be new things for the children to play on, and some of the areas around the park had been tidied up and replanted. Sadly, there seems to be an ongoing problem with vandalism, but there were some small children enjoying themselves with their parents, and the cherry trees were in blossom. It used to seem such an abandoned and desolate spot, and now it feels as if it’s somewhere that people will actually use. The more people care about a space, the less likely it is to be damaged in my experience.

The park and playground at Market Place

Cherry blossom in the park

New planting with periwinkle at the edge of the playground

There are lots of other things going on in East Finchley too, one of which is happening on Church Lane, where some of the trees appear to have names. But more about this in the Wednesday Weed tomorrow….