Sunday, 22 May 2022

More Gardening Stuff

 My giant alliums have gone over, but my dwarf alliums are now coming into flower. At least they are in one planter, for some reason the ones in the other planter have not formed flowering heads. 

I suppose these things happen when you are a "gardener" - how hilarious to refer myself as one of those. 

There is action happening now with the rest of my new plantings - my bee and butterfly mix meadows are showing life, my convovulveses are sprouting, the alysium is coming on nicely and I'm wondering when the cornflowers can come out of the mini greenhouse. 

Amazingly, after what feels like weeks in the greenhouse, the poppy seedlings are appearing since I've moved them outside. 

Let's see how things go along. I've got my echinacea to think about planting now.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 22.05.22







Friday, 20 May 2022

Wildlife at Work

 The warmer days at work this week have led to an explosion of sorts in our mini wildflower meadows I helped plant several years ago, with birds foot trefoil now adding to the yellow carpet of buttercups. Many other cultivated plants that attract pollinators such as rock cranesbill have also come into flower, and in their train, we have a lot of insect life now making itself known.

This is good news for the nesting birds on campus, such as our pair of linnets, and evidently goldfinches as I saw a juvenile the other day. 

I've got some photographs I took the other day, where luck smiled on me for a change quality wise in the good light.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 20.05.22









Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The Golden Fields of Farndon

 It was a lovely early evening yesterday, so having done a circuit of the park earlier on where I failed to photograph banded demoiselles, I took myself off to Farndon to look at Cottage Lane nature reserve.

I noticed another decent sized swift colony at the back entrance to the village, but poppies aren't growing en masse in the field any more. Indeed with all the recent building works, poppies aren't growing en masse any more anywhere around here. 

I went around the Farndon Ponds, where all was quiet on the water but lots of birdsong in the trees, and after a walk through a wood found myself on Cottage Lane.

You may remember the last time I went there, there were a few snake's head fritillaries among the clumps of lady's smock. Now it is dominated by buttercups, with ragged robin thrown in. 

I was on the look out for dragonflies here, but maybe still a little early. 

Then I made my way toward the river, and found what I hoped for. The pastures next to the river were just yellow with buttercups, not perhaps as dazzling a yellow as that you get with oilseed rape, but still vivid and beautiful. Lots of moths were among the stems, flushed by my stomping feet. 

The golden fields, that I always love to see.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 17.05.22








Sunday, 15 May 2022

A weekend of Nature

 Both of my cricket matches were cancelled this weekend, which is a relief as I seem to have gone down with sciatica in the back of my thigh after practice on Thursday and have thus been doing a lot of hobbling around and gobbling Ibuprofen.

However, I'm not too bad once I actually get moving, and so have been able to get in a couple of lovely walks, one in rather better weather than the other. 

Saturday was hot and cloudless, and the path along the River Devon had burst into life. As well as the orange tips, holly blues, brimstones and other butterfly species patrolling the meadow areas, and the very early appearance of damselflies.

There were banded demoiselles, males and females, out and about, but there was also a large red damselfly by the river in the old oak wood, a species I've never seen before. Throw in the appearance of a grey wagtail and a blackcap, and it felt like a pretty special morning. 

Later on, as I watched the second team cricket match I was in no way good enough to take part in, I saw a beautiful small copper in the long grass, absolutely fresh out of the packet and very very vivid. It was a better result than that of the match.

Tonight, I had a cup of tea with my stepfather, then carried on with an evening walk around the Blue Lake on a grey evening with rain in the air. Radio 6 had Stuart Maconie playing music inspired by the ambient sounds of nature, and the  slowed down song of a blackbird on one track merged in with the real life evening chorus around me beautifully. 

The appearance of a fox watching me at a distance on the cycle path put the proverbial cherry on it, even as the rain began to fall harder.

Si

All text and photos copyright CreamCrackeredNature 15.05.22









Monday, 9 May 2022

Village Shenanigans Against Calverton

 Another home match, this time for the Sunday friendly side against Calverton.

This was one of our friendly matches that I had organised, so there was no relaxed preamble for me - I had to help get things set up, and meet and greet the opposition.

Calverton were a good bunch of mainly young lads from their second team, with an Australian captain from the first team who we all assumed would be as good as Steve Smith, and wouldn't take his foot off the gas for a second. Sandpaper optional. 

One of our ground staff very kindly came down to properly prepare the wicket that had been such a bad track on Saturday, and it actually played pretty well today although the odd ball was still misbehaving as I was to find out later. The captain and I thought it would be best to bat first, but of course he lost the toss and they took first use of the track. 

It had been pretty clear from the start of the day that this was going to be a tough match as Calcerton took their youngsters through a pre-match fitness and skills routine, while our players sat around on benches eating and smoking. This was soon borne out, as they got off to a flying start helped by my inability these days to try and catch anything hit really hard. The heart says yes, but the brain says no, and self preservation takes over.

Cortex prevents catching. 

The openers were a contrasting pair - a lad about the size of the stumps but with the seeming power of Ben Stokes, and a big unit in spectacles who hit me for 6 first ball when I came on to bowl, then 4 before retiring on 50. Lucky me. 

For a change I actually bowled ok with a bit more snap than recently, but there was no swing for me. I took a wicket with another bad ball, but there was some good stuff. Alas I strayed onto leg stump once or twice an over and would immediately get hit for 4 - the wicket maiden I bowled was an aberration, evidently. At least I didn't bowl any no-balls. 

Other guys bowled about the same as me but others bowled better so it wasn't a total massacre in the field. They put up 198 for 4 in 35 overs, and we did manage to keep the Aussie skipper pacing the sidelines in his pads which felt like a tactical victory at the time. One guy waiting to bat had decided to take his kit off during the final over, and ended up having to come in to face the last ball just holding a bat with no pads on or anything.

He still hit it for 4 though. 

Our batting got off to a sticky start and within 5 overs we were 9 for 2 with numbers 2 and 3 having both scored ducks. Our opening bat and the 3rd time vice captain were then able to put on a good partnership having to withstand from very good bowling in the process. When he got to 50, the Calverton scorer thought he should retire "because that's what we do".

"Well that's very nice" we said, and told him to go on and make a hundred. Sadly he didn't, but the reality is we were light on batting and figured that once he'd gone, we'd struggle like anything against their bowlers. 

In the middle of all this, the Aussie captain decided to attempt a run out, missed the stumps by miles and succeeded only in smashing one of his own fielders on his upper cheekbone with the ball. There was then a pause as first aid kits were hunted for and instant ice was found.

Science is such a wonderful thing!

Anyway, he went off for a check up and what I'm sure will be a huge black eye as I write this. In the meantime our lower middle order were dropping like flies. I had to go in and face a hat-trick ball from the big opening bat, who turned out to be quite a rapid bowler as well. I kept the first ball out, at which point the fielder at extra cover decided to try and run me out but only managed to hit me in the chest with the ball. 

Second ball I kept out too, but the third was short, jagged back and kept low to remove my leg stump, at which point the bowler ran down the wicket bellowing like King Kong and leading me to think he was going to try and eat my head. He was rather pleased with his triple wicket maiden. 

It was all over after that, a heavy but not dispiriting defeat to a fine young side. 

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 09.05.22








Saturday, 7 May 2022

I Do Best when I Do Nothing at All

 A home game today against Keyworth 3s, a team with whom we have had many good matches over the years, matches in which I've done well in - I took my first 5 wicket haul in a game against them a few years ago. 

I must confess, I didn't really want to play the match. My body being what it is these days, I'm not really able to play two games in a weekend. My left ankle really doesn't like it. However, the Captain asked me to play as they had three drop outs, so I said I would, wincing as I did so. A couple of other semi retired players also carrying injuries had also been press ganged into service.

It was worth it to get the game on, however, as we had a father and son combo playing today, the youngster in his first ever senior match. We had a cap presentation "ceremony" before the game, taking place in the shadow of two gazebos wobbling alarmingly in the breeze.

After the usual "scouring the ground for pebbles to use as counters" preamble, I sacrificed myself to open up the square-leg umpiring as we batted first, which gave me a good view of how the wicket was playing, which the ground staff had not had enough time to properly prepare because of the usual flooding and rain.

Despite their hard work, it was evident very quickly that it was going to be tricky, to say the least. One ball would pop up chest high like a tennis ball, another would roll along the ground like a bowling ball trying to wipe out the batter's ankles. Keyworth's young bowlers caused problems, and reduced us to 13 for 2.

Our numbers 3 and 4 then put on an excellent partnership about 80, so I was able to have a walk round the ground after my umpiring stint. When the sun was out, it was a lovely day, and brimstones, orange tips, speckled woods and small tortoiseshells patrolled the hedgerow margins, avoiding the occasional hazard of a cricketer with a weak bladder looking for a secluded spot. The keening buzzards were back, an oystercatcher "peeped" its way over the ground, and a more mechanical life form also flew over - a spitfire!

After the skipper hit a 6 into the adjoining field, I then did what I accurately predicted would be my most important contribution to the day when I found the ball for the first time ever in such a hunt. However, after these two went, scoring then seemed to become almost impossible on the wicket, and we only added another 30 or so more in the last ten overs.

I was hoping to get a bat, not that I would have done any better. But I was padded up on the sidelines for half an hour and I wasn't needed.

I wasn't needed to bowl either, although I was wondering if the game had gone on further I might have been called up to bowl a couple to try and get a breakthrough. Instead I fielded energetically enough again without actually having to do a lot, other than a big dive to fail to stop the ball. 

"At least I'm trying" I thought at the time. At least by not doing a lot I could mess anything really up.

Our bowlers turned out to be a little bit much for Keyworth on that wicket. One of our youngesters took his first wicket early on in an excellent spell of off spin. Then our debutant son went on later and took an amazing wicket with his first ever ball in senior cricket, which caused much understandable joy on his father's fizzog. And our's too.

He took two more in a brilliant spell, and it was left to the skipper to finish the game when the last Keyworth batter came in, who was barely the height of the stumps. He tried to game him a wide one first up, which he chipped straight to cover, upon which he (the batter, not our captain) burst into tears. We had bowled them out for 56. 

It's a cruel and heartless game sometimes. 









Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Moths and Baby Bunnies

 Yesterday, I went out into the garden and was curious to see a brown shape sat suspiciously on the red alien looking plant that lurks at the back of my garden and I can never remember the name of.

Closer inspection revealed it to be an angle shades moth having a cunning nap in my yard. It obviously liked the spot, as it stayed there all day, oblivious to me noisily try to empty a sack of compost into planters without pulling every muscle in my back.

Sunflowers and poppies, in case you were wondering. 

Today I'm back at work, and noticed on my break-time walk that we have become over-run with young rabbits. No doubt some of these will end up in the talons of the buzzards, one way or another.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 03.05.22






Sunday, 1 May 2022

Never Mind the Personal Disaster, We Won!

I have had a hell of a week, and the reason for this has been cricket. 

I had previously arranged an away game; that was cancelled by the opposition on Monday. I then arrange a home game with another team, which then also had to be cancelled for ground reasons. I then arranged another away fixture, but a lot of our players had then made other plans, and so since Wednesday I have been trying to put a team together for me to captain. 

Finally got a side together yesterday night, and so today we headed out to Chilwell, a club playing at a public park with a wicket that "does a bit" to use the standard parlance. Our side included a dad playing with his sun, a husband playing with his wife, a hopeless injured cripple - me - and others. 

Knowing were a bit light in decent bowling - because of me - I desperately wanted to win the toss so we could bat first and avoid what I thought would be the proverbial leather-chase for forty overs. 

My dears looked to be confirmed when the opening bats made a good start against our opening bowlers, not helped me by me throwing myself to the floor rather than attempting a catch to a shot whacked hard at my head as I never saw it our of a house-brick background until it was about 3 metres from my face.  

Another boundary an over or two later was rather more my fault however. It was, as we say, "a refusal". 

Our change bowlers however, lower paces being better suited to the wicket, did much better, and indeed Mr Chairman took 4 wickets with some excellent bowling so we pegged Chilwell back to about 125 for 5 after 25 or so overs. The good bowlers were now bowled out however, which meant it was me with my knackers yard ankle had to bowl a few overs before the openers came back, and they were frankly awful.

I did ok last week, being accurate if with no pace, but today I was bowling full tosses and half trackers, all of which were obliterated to the boundary. The decent balls I bowled did cause problems; I shaved the stumps a couple of times and a had a few nicked through the slips, but not enough.

I felt resigned, it was awful. I did take a wicket, but that was with a rotten long hop. 

Luckily it didn't have to last too long, and I got the opening bowlers back on to restrict Chilwell to 205 for 9.

Disappointing, but hardly disastrous, I thought.

After tea - nothing in my case -  we went out to bat and made a so so start, with the erratic bounce on the wicket causing problems. But our two young lads went in and made a great fist of things, one of them making a great 50 in good time. Run rate was never a problem, but wickets were, Mr Chairman not able to replicate his fine efforts with the ball with the bat. A good partnership between our number 5 - a mighty hitter - and our number 7 followed, but when the latter was LBW it was generally agreed the match was over, as our number 8 was myself and we still needed about 60. I survived my first ball, which was a wide - I shall consider this "getting off the mark", and proceeded to look down to remark my guard at the crease. 

I looked up to see the ball already heading towards me. It popped up off the wicket, bobbled off my splice and was taken at cover. 

I felt utterly hopeless.

The good news was that this enabled our number 9 to come in, the last of our competent batsman, and husband of our number 10. Really he should have batted above me, but he had bowled a full stint and I rather liked the idea of a husband and wife batting together.

Mike Brearley himself could have have come up with a better tactic. 

He batted really well, and we edged closer and closer to the target. However, he was castled by one that kept low with only 7 left to win and we all thought that was it, as his wife had never played proper cricket before, and the number 11 wasn't a regular player either.

However, she kept out three deliveries, amid nail-biting tension, and our number 5 monstered two big 4s to take us to victory by two wickets. 

Always restrained, I jumped around the boundary edge yelling "GET IT. GET IN!!!"

The Chilwell boys, a nice bunch took it well, although they were a bit disappointed. Truth was, it had been a cracking game of cricket for both sides.

But just a little bit better for us.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 01.05.22








Saturday, 30 April 2022

Batwalking!

 So this week I went on an organised batwatching walk to Sconce and DEvon Park, feeling rather smug that I had my own bat detector and wouldn't have to borrow one.

Organised by The Sherwood Forest Trust, the event started at 8pm and attracted about 40 people, which I was quite surprised about, that being said it had become a bright enough evening and there was no threat of rain that would have kept the bats in, bats not being stupid animals. 

We first went off to explore the orchard, although it was still a bit bright - we were told that "Bats don't come out until the birds stop singing" and this actually seemed to be the case. If you wanted to be all zoological about, I suppose it means the bats don't have to compete with the birds for the insects. 

We detected nothing in the orchard, and so headed across to the river side of the park to the Old Oak Wood, where I knew that bats would be found, and sure enough my detector went off, then everyone else's.

We then had a pretty exciting bat-show in the woods for the next half hour or so, watched by excited children - and adults - as pipistrelle bats whizzed around our heads in numbers. The walk leader had a much more sophisticated detector that registered the bats as calling at 57 kilohertz, indicating that they were soprano pipistrelles. 

Occasionally bats flew past in pairs, whizzing round it each other, and apparently this indicates that they were probably females looking for a nest site to raise their young.

Every so often the detectors gave out a loud squelching sound, indicating the demise of an insect on the sharp points of bat fangs. 

After a while we then moved further down the river, but further detecting efforts were hampered by a small gang of kids, one of them in mirror shades and wearing a shopping bag on his head, having a rave. 

It's that sort of town.

It was a fun event, and if you have any such near you, I would recommend going. 

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.04.22