A little walk and surprise Seals

I’ve not been getting out much since the pandemic hit last year. Consequently I’ve piled on pounds stones and become quite unhealthy. This weekend I gave myself a stern talking to and have decided to make a serious effort to adopt the lifestyle I used to have which basically involved getting out places, walking a lot and eating a diet that didn’t involve takeaways, processed freezer food and wine! I’m not judging others who indulge in those things by the way, I just know I don’t do well on them!

So we were looking for short local walks to build me up and as I’m married to someone who likes to explore places that I would never think of going, we ended up in a small area of woodland nestled somewhere between the Tees flyover and the Newport bridge. It’s the noisiest bit of woodland I’ve ever walked in. There was no escaping the fact that the A19 was practically on top of us, no matter how green and pleasant the surroundings were.

As we came through the trees on one side of the wood we came along side Billingham beck, a tributary of the Tees.

And look what we found. Seals! They were just lazing about on the mud flats while the tide was out. Unfortunately I only had the camera on my phone with me so I couldn’t zoom in very well but to the naked eye they were actually really close. They lifted themselves up a bit to have a nosey at us so we decided to move on and leave them dozing in peace.

All around the wood were bits of abandoned things like paving slabs, the odd supermarket trolley, lots of rubbish and broken glass. It’s typical of such an area really. Councils pretty up an old industrial site but the immediate surroundings just don’t attract the sort of people who appreciate it as a nature spot, so it just becomes unkempt and littered.

I didn’t feel particularly driven to take any photographs but the bee on the teazel caught my eye and then I was woken up to the fact that we are now in August, when I spotted the ripening brambles!

Autumn is just around the corner, another year flying by!

What to do with my frontage?

We bought our house back in 2018 and although we didn’t move in until October we were regularly peeking from the kerbside from the time of our first viewing in early summer right up until the move. During that whole time the tiny little bit of front garden was a mass of gorgeously sweet smelling, yellow Roses. On reflection I think the Roses may have been the reason I missed the fact that the windows could do with replacing and the garden wall is probably going to collapse in the next five years but hey ho. Roses though! Despite naming one of my daughters Rose, I have never actually grown any. I remember being a bit obsessed with Roses on fabric at around the time she was born and made her a cot quilt and patchwork cushion with some Kaffe Fassett Forget Me Not Rose, but it never occurred to me to plant a Rose! Probably just as well because we have moved three times since she was born, so unless it was potted it would have been left behind anyway.

My first instinct was to keep the Roses in the front garden. There were a couple in the back too but they had to come out so I could hang out the washing without it snagging on thorns. The two at the front of the house are still awaiting a decision on their fate. They are beautiful and largely self sufficient. Every year the other half hacks them right back with a view to us digging them out, we never get round to it and they grow back and flower so fiercely it’s like they’re trying to justify their right to stay. And I would be happy for them to stay if it wasn’t for the fact that the whole of the front needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately I can’t see a way of getting on top of the weeds and clearing everything else without the Roses coming out or getting damaged if they stay in. I don’t use chemicals as a rule but this little strip of garden has been neglected for over a decade according to one neighbour so the weeds are well established and the ground compacted. I fear a dose of weed killer may be my only chance with this patch especially since I no longer have the strength or stamina for gardening that I once had.

It’s a job I don’t think I can put off much longer. Our house now has the scruffiest garden on the street and because it’s a mess people seem to think it’s okay to dump their crisp packets, coffee cups, face masks and so on in there. Last week someone decided it was the ideal place to offload a child’s scooter and skateboard so now they’re just sat out there because it feels wrong to get rid of them just in case the rightful owner is looking for them. It’s all a bit daunting and I cannot believe I used to manage a fairly large garden, with a thriving vegetable plot most years. Admittedly I was starting to find it a struggle towards the end which is why we opted for a house with only a small strip of garden at the front and back, but having no growing space at all would have been going a little too far and my mental health would not have thanked us for it.

So the front. What to do? Well whatever ‘we’ do it’s going to have to be me that does it because the other half is a bit rubbish at gardening. He’ll hack stuff down and take it to the green waste skip at the tip but for anything else I find he needs too much instruction and he has an obsession with using loppers for everything when a pair of secateurs would suffice. Best just to leave him inside watching Doctor Who while I play ‘avoid talking to the neighbours’ by crouching behind the wall. Does anyone else dread having to have a conversation with a neighbour or a passer by while they’re gardening? I’m sure this is the main reason why my front gardens have always looked more unkempt than my back gardens, every house I’ve ever lived in, no exception! I’m an unsociable sod, I know, but if they knew how much energy I have to spend interacting with them then I’m sure they’d leave me alone to use that energy on making my garden less of an eyesore. Honestly, talk to me while gardening and I will go in for a cup of tea to recover from the social interaction and never come back out again, well only after dark to sneakily tidy the tools away!

The only way I am ever going to get my frontage looking dapper is to devise a plan, stick to it and then hope nobody approaches me! So here’s my plan:

  • Clear the rubbish! This is not something I am comfortable with. There are discarded face masks, wipes and goodness knows what else in there. It’s a job for thick rubber gloves and maybe one of those litter picker pincer thingys.
  • Kill off the vegetation. Weed killer I’m afraid. I can’t get down on my hands and knees to tease out by hand and some of those weeds are well established perennials who think they own the place. I don’t have the patience to wait another year while they suffocate under a layer of plastic or old carpet.
  • Tidy up the edging stones. One or two have been completely removed but are still lying around. They just need putting back.
  • Remove dead vegetation (assuming the chemicals have worked!)
  • Level the soil and remove some if necessary.
  • Put down membrane and cover with stone chippings.
  • Pop a few low maintenance pots and planters on the stone chippings.
  • Stand back and say job done!
So we made a start!

I’m also toying with the idea of painting the wall. It is not the original wall and the brick used is an ugly orange sort of brick that is spalling all over the path so covering that up would instantly make things look better. But that would mean being out on the pavement while I painted! Almost certainly that would mean PEOPLE. Hmm. I’m going to have to think about that one carefully! Look! A Ladybird!