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devonpete's Blog

Pond Edging

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 9:08 am

Heavens, this seems a long dull month (actually shorter than most by a day or two).
With seedlings now swarming in the greenhouse, pricking out into plug trays as fast as I can evacuate each covered propogator, my thoughts also turn to the remaining unfinished edging to the pond, where the liner is still sticking up untrimmed, and unsightly.
Using, as Poirot says, ze leetle gray cells, I think I may have, as Baldrick says, a cunning plan...
The idea is to cast in situ cement blocks encapsulating the pond liner edge. I have been collecting 1lt plastic milk containers which, cut in half, should be the ideal size of mold for the castings.
A container is therefore cut in half, and a central slot cut half way up the two opposite narrower sides. This accepts the pond liner.
A large cement pouring hole is cut in the bottom of the container (which becomes the top), large enough to pour in cement, but retaining the container's curved edge to maintain a rigid block shape.
So, after lowering the level of water in the pond and allowing the edge area to dry out, the edge of the liner is punched with holes using a paper punch. These will act as achorage points within the cement blocks. The milk container molds are then slotted over the liner, and sit flush to the pond base. I have a built in ledge already to accept some form of cement edging.
The molds, just a few at a time, are lined up together, and filled with not too sloppy cement (or it'll just run out at the bottom) until the very edge of the liner is just about visible - this acts as a leveling indicator. The cement permeates through the holes in the liner to 'grab' it, and stop it moving once set.
Leave the cement blocks to set, remove the plastic molds, and move along to the next section and repeat until the length of edging is finished.
All then that remains to do is to skim over the tops of the castings where the liner edge is still visible.
The finished result should be a neat segmented cast cement block edge, with the liner trapped within. The blocks should be heavy enough not to shift, as each would be the weight of a house brick, plus the accumulated weight and 'liner grabbing' of all the blocks along the run.
As soon as it stops raining, I shall give it a go.
Just trialed the idea as pic below. Obviously everything needs to dry out before I can begin pouring cement in them.
A slight change of plan is to use a loop of garden wire through the liner to fix both halves of the casting tight together.
You might just see a loop of green wire where the next mold goes.

Last edited: Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:34 am

This blog entry has been viewed 3612 times

Frogspawn Day

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:00 am

I wandered out the back as usual this morning, and see that there's a dollop of frogspawn in the pond.
I have heard a couple of frogs in the evening croaking away, and have seen one occasionally bobbing up out of the pondweed.
As there are no fish in the pond now, it looks like they'll have the place to themselves for a while.
I believe the local heron will be a problem here. I'm sure he's taken the few larger fish I had. The smaller ones died from fungul growth, but none of the larger ones have been seen for weeks. Maybe he got them some time ago.
I shall have to think very carefully about whether to stock up again, or just leave it as a wildlife pond otherwise it could get expensive, not to mention irritating.
Maybe I'll introduce a good collection of flowering border plants instead.

This blog entry has been viewed 418 times

Blurred Memories

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:29 am

Manually photographed from ten year old photos (so the quality is poor), the first is of myself surrounded by model railway trackbeds and dirt, early into the build. The model buildings I'd made to that point are positioned below the ruined castle, as the start of a village.
The second is a miserably wet day (and there were enough of those). The unsightly handrails were necessary as kids were tempted to race around with the trains. It was a safety nightmare.

This blog entry has been viewed 340 times

Return to 'Spring Hill'

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 6:38 pm

This is a long story, but I'll try to keep it short.
Come May it will be a decade since I found myself in Wales following a business venture.
This is just a fond look back at a past pursuit that was, at times, exciting, and at other times, distressing.
Out of the blue I received a phone call from a fellow in Wales, inviting me to join him in his new outdoor project at 'Spring Hill', Devil's Bridge.
We hadn't met before, and his interest in my model buildings was the reason for ringing me.
He had already commenced the groundwork at Devil's Bridge in Mid-Wales, for a public park with a large scale miniature railway.
The site was some 7 acres situated above a steep valley, complete with natural waterfalls. Part of the grounds were to be left as wooded areas for walks.
Obviously I jumped at the chance to expand my product's image close to the major tourist attraction of Devil's Bridge, with its own majestic waterfalls.
And so, after speedy arrangements, I was on my way to Wales with an overnight bag, to reccy the scene.
Seven hours later, I found myself in the gathering damp Welsh gloom of evening driving down a gravelled track towards a 100 year old railway mess hut. This was the temporary accommodation/office of the project, and stood beside the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge railway track. I was to quickly learn that the train passed twice a day, with a friendly hoot and a whistle, bringing hundreds of tourists up the line from Aberystwyth to the Devil's Bridge station terminus just around the bend.
After a warm welcome - we'd never met before - a hot meal, and a glass of scotch, the venture was gradually unfolded in detail for me.
The job involved my creating a model village for his proposed model railway. For those of you who know the railway product, it's produced by Lehmann in Germany.
The next morning we tramped across the railway track, through dew laden grass in the direction of his grounds. Work was already well under way in digging out a bank of slate to level off the model railway area. This involved a huge JCB. Basically it was a building site, with at least three months work yet to see it all finished. It was certainly an exciting idea, and expense seemed to be no issue here.
We took a walk around the rest of the grounds, looking out across the steep valley through fir trees. It was indeed a magical place.
My part of the exercise was quite open ended. To make whatever models I felt would be appropriate, all of which would of course be funded. I could also run my own shop there if I wanted, selling my product. In fact a small shop unit was eventually erected just for me.
This, then, was the start of a friendship which has lasted. Though we no longer share any business, I still visit him in Wales almost every year.
But back to the plot.
I accepted the challenge, returned back to Surrey and started immediately on the first model buildings.
Within a few weeks I was ready to return to Wales on a semi-permanent basis. I'd purchased a small caravan that I could live in for the summer (an adventure in itself), and this was towed back to Wales and parked beside the railway track. All my meals were supplied, so the van was just a place to retire to after two or three nightcaps in the mess hut with mine host.
During the next months we found we had a very similar sense of humour. Many an evening we would be reduced to tears of laughter over some silly comment one of us might make - the sort of laughter you just can't control. It could have been the scotch, and probably was. But it was one of the most enjoyable escapades. Camped on the side of a valley, making model buildings, shifting mountains of earth, creating overlooks into the valley...the days just flew by, with us both falling into easy chairs at the end of each day, exhausted and happy.
The weeks passed, the model railway tracks were laid, some of my models installed, and the proposed day of opening to the public drew closer and closer. Model railway items were arriving from America, along with complicated sound systems and controllers.
After a postponement of opening just to get as close to completion as possible, the kids at the local primary school were invited in with their teacher. The local press were there too, and the following week a good writeup appeared in the newspaper.
Hundreds of leaflets were left at hotels, van sites, holiday camps, shops, etc.
Eventually the big day arrived. I'd just finished painting a huge ten foot high sign for the entrance gates (at this point I was doing more than just modelmaking).
The gates were opened. The train from Aberystwyth could be heard whistling it's warning of approach as it rounded the final bend into Devil's Bridge station. Soon the first hundred or so tourists would be walking past our gates on their way to see the falls just up the road.
And that's exactly what they did.
They just walked past our gates to see the falls just up the road. Not one stopped to look.
There were couples and whole families; mums and dads pushing buggies laden with offspring, and much older folk looking like they wouldn't make it.
But none chose to see what we offered. Eventually, over the course of the summer months. attendance picked up a little, but not nearly enough to save the scheme. We had special days when children could come in free. Other days when adults could come in free with a paying child. Other days when anyone could come in free. It was crazy stuff.
A mobile catering van was purchased and setup at the entrance to try to stop folk passing. They sometimes bought an icecream. And continued to the falls.
The venture from then on just went slowly downhill. I returned back to Surrey for the winter, thoroughly exhausted from trying to help turn around the business, and depressed.
I returned again the next spring, but it was no use. The place finally closed at the end of that summer.
There were so many funny incidents of those days, ten years ago, that we now recall over glasses of scotch...returning once more (and for many years yet, I hope) to evenings of watery eyed uncontrollable laughter at the hopelessness of that project.

Above: Me providing some evening's entertainment in the Mess Hut during one of my yearly visits.
That crazed expression is probably a good reflection of the laughs we still share.
No more Mess Hut now - we've both moved on.

The grounds at Devil's Bridge were only rented, and the owners - skilled gardeners in their own right - re-adopted the gardens, ripping out most of all our hard work.
A middleaged couple, they discovered a new hobby of creating huge sculptures in cement. These were installed, and the gardens reopened a couple of years later as a lower key attraction. Which worked.
I'm showing two of the cement creations below, the results of what I believe to be of a very gifted man.
We really should have asked for his help all along!

Above: A colossal temple with Buddha. The domed roof was one casting!

Above: A rustic watermill nearing completion. The section of wheel is fixed to the bank and made up of concrete sections lowered into place. Upon my return a year later, I saw it with gallons of water pouring over the wheel and falling into a hidden recycling pump pit.

Wonderful stuff.

Last edited: Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:05 pm

This blog entry has been viewed 537 times

Pre-Spring Alpine Activity

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:06 am

Last Sunday I invested in two six-plant collections for my new alpine section. These came in colour packs - a yellow selection and purple/pink. Not as large as my last alpine garden, the area is nevertheless plenty big enough for a splash of colour later on. I can always extend if necessary.
Also I might introduce one or two separate alpine containers elsewhere - I have an old ceramic sink just asking to be utilised, with some outer cement/loam facing.
I was surprised though to see that half way through this last week two of the new plants have already started to flower (well, one flower on each).
These are the Arabis and Erodium - both purple in colour.
In retrospect I'm not sure if I picked the most ideal spot for them, as it's sometimes in the shade, but if the plants are already flowering, maybe it's OK for them. I'll have to wait and see.
Also a well established Aubreta under the apple tree (which I might steal some pieces of for elsewhere) has had one flower - but now gone again.
Today I hope to pick up two more packs of the remaining colours - blue and white.
Starting from scratch things always look very bare, but in a couple of seasons time the area should be carpeted in colour for much of the summer.

WARNING: Because of the nature of the subject, the link below contains uncensored images of naturism.

Dates for my 2007 diary:
May 5 WNGD - World Naked Gardening Day
Caution: link not safe for workplace viewing
-celebrating au naturel horticulture the first Saturday every May.
June 23 - Eden Project Clothesfree Evening
The Eden Project is a world class multi biodome centre in Cornwall.

Last edited: Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:55 pm

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Musical Memories

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 8:49 am

Moving house always ends up with stuff still packed away in boxes months after the move.
As you come to need something you know you have somewhere, it's back to the search routine through a whole stack of garaged cartons.
Now where on earth did I put that?
In looking for something in particular, I found my old Philips record player at last. I knew it was somewhere.

This is a lovely old 1950's job - still working perfectly, and found on eBay a couple of years ago.
But the magic of this bit of consumer kit is that it's exactly the model my family used to have 50 years ago.
Whenever I play it, it reminds me of fond memories of when I was about 8, and we'd settle down of a winter's evening by the fire, and play the few 78's we'd collected.
There were grand marches, skiffle, and ballads - quite a mixture.
Unfortunately a large proportion of our small collection was left stacked on a seat.
You guessed it.
It was my father who happened to crush them, reducing our choice of programme by 75%.
Never mind. It was not long before more robust plastic 45's were in the shops.
I derive a lot of pleasure now from playing some of the old 78's I've managed to collect in job lots.
But I shrugged off what was dangerously becoming an anorak situation as far as record players go - not content with one Philips Disc Jockey Major, I had about six other models most of which needed repair work.
My collection has now been sensibly reduced to three different playable models, and two windup gramophones (one with a big brass horn - but sadly just a replica version).


Yesterday on the news it was confirmed that Devon is among one of the ten most visited areas OF THE WORLD for vacations.
I got that right then.

Last edited: Sat Feb 10, 2007 9:05 am

This blog entry has been viewed 478 times

Snowhere to be seen

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:21 am

Rain rain go away.
Come again another day.
Whilst much of Britain snuggles under a blanket of crisp white snow, for some reason stopping the nation in its tracks, we get rain.
It almost makes you feel like going back to bed until Spring shines through the chink in the curtains.

This blog entry has been viewed 439 times

Winter Trees

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 10:03 am

There's one thing I do like about winter. And it's that it makes all the other seasons so more attractive.
Without it, there would be no preferences.
A friend of mine, who I was at art college with, used to comment on how much more interesting trees are in their skeletal form, than when in leaf.
I know what he means, but I'm not sure.
Trees without leaves are like a party without food and wine. Just a bare table.
The table might be a richly grained, highly polished example of craftsmanship - but until it's laden with goodies it's not actually doing anything practical.
For me, a tree looks more majestic with its cloak of leaves.
It's also so much more practical, pumping out masses of oxygen for us while we sleep, and providing inviting dappled shade when we need to retire from the sun's glare.
Therefore my own preference is for rich leafy boughs rather than the empty ones.
Now, getting deeper into February - probably Britain's bleakest, most undesirable month - I look out of my window at the bare cold trees in the near distance, and wonder what can I possibly write for my blog today that will help cheer me up.
Each branch out there is a damp vantage point for cold fluffed up passing birds seeking winter food.
I have to console myself with the thought that this is necessary to make the Spring, Summer and Autumn that much more special.
And there have been some excellent woodland strolls.
With the necessary protection of trainers (a thorn in the foot isn't a good idea), I used to enjoy this special time in the drowsily warm summer woods of Surrey - or when a vast sea of bluebells carpets the woodland floor in the late Spring. I believe this is the real world of the true naturist. Sun, sea and sand isn't everything - seeking the dappled glades deep in the countryside, surrounded by corn fields, hedgerows and wild beauty, is just as welcoming.
This will sound corny, but I show deep respect to Mother Nature on equal terms, stealing nothing, and leaving nothing...except footprints.
I'm hesitant about inserting another of my 'pot bellied pinup' pics here as it won't be to everyone's interest, but anyone with a genuine interest in naturism can PM me if they want, for a link to a (censored) photo album. It's something and nothing. I'll leave the choice open.

There have been many times I've admired a particular wild plant, thinking that would look good in my garden. Maybe a lush fern, primrose or wild orchid.
But no. It's meant to be exactly where it is. That's why I come here. To see it in all its glory.

It appalls me how some folk treat the natural world as a handy tip. Coke cans, plastic bags and all the rubbish they can't be bothered to take home. This is all strewn about in their 'Who gives a toss?' attitude. It makes no sense.
They go to enjoy the outdoor scenery and then destruct it.
It makes my blood boil.

Last edited: Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:52 am

This blog entry has been viewed 515 times

Feathered Friends

Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:08 am

I have not previously enjoyed an abundance of wild birds visiting my garden back in Surrey, apart from a squabbling gang of starlings or house sparrows. Maybe the occasional robin.
So here in Devon I'm delighted to have plenty of varied visitors, and was able to add another to the list yesterday - a pair of long-tailed tits, which I don't think I've come across before, anywhere.
The spotting list now stands at:
Blackbird, wren, robin, chaffinch, blue tit, goldfinch, long-tailed tit, thrush, magpie, wood pigeon, and of course seagulls a plenty. I love the cry of seagulls - so 'seasidey'. And I heard an owl hooting late last night, so I suppose that counts as having been observed, if only audibly.

Above: A bluetit surveying the nest box.

Above: A blackbird visits the pond everyday for a bath. Brrrrrrrrr.
The one bird I don't want to catch in my garden is a Mr. referred to by my neighbour, in a deliciously thick clotted cream Devonshire dialect you could spoon in great dollops onto fresh strawberries.
Now that's a thought. Strawberries. I haven't got any going yet. Now where can I put them?

Last edited: Wed Feb 07, 2007 9:56 am

This blog entry has been viewed 372 times


Category: Miscellaneous | Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:19 am

I'm afraid it's happened again.
Every year it comes around like clockwork.
Just when you're getting used to some reasonably mild winter sunshine of Jan...Feb comes along and you know it's got a whole wagonload of meteorological rubbish to dump on you.
It's at times like this that I meditate with the thoughts of, hopefully, warmer times just beyond April. It's not an age away.
Sunshine, butterflies, roses leaping another few inches over the arches, bees humming, birds singing, and, yes, honey for tea.
Pick your heels up summer, and get here ASAP.

Last edited: Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:37 am

This blog entry has been viewed 283 times

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