The garden and allotment year…

At just before 7am this morning the latest copy of the RHS monthly magazine made a resounding thump as it hit hallway floor. There is always a level of excitement when a new journal arrives, whether that be Trout & Salmon or the Porsche Club UK, Porsche Post. Most other monthly journals I subscribe to online. What I have observed is that some publishers are still using flow wrappers which although they say can be recycled can only be done at larger stores. I have to say the RHS wrapper featured above uses 100% sustainably sourced paper and just feels more environmentally friendly.

I’m looking to completely overhaul my garden this year, making it cleaner and simple in design. The garden is only about 7.5m x 10m and faces northwest with the sun in winter only getting to it after midday. One side is always in the shade and the other in full sun. I have a small garden shed which I aim to move or should I say remove in order to build a more functional shed to work in. There is a large olive tree on the sunny side and a mix of terracotta and galvanised containers making up the majority of the planting as the two small beds that run either side are more trouble than they are worth, although planted up with roses, clematis, ferns and hosta they haven’t really done that well so the idea is to keep the roses and fig then cover the beds with gravel or larger pebbles allowing drainage, then constructing a trestle table from some reclaimed wooden legs and a rescued Dutch barge hatch cover which is around 8ft x 3ft in order to place the pots and containers on a raised platform, hopefully this will give me the addition and less cluttered space I’m looking to achieve. On the side which gets more sun I will continue to grow a pear which is planted in a large terracotta pot and all other plants I will remove leaving only a handful of pots with sun loving plant in. All other space will be cleared and only relevant garden furniture to remain.

I’m looking forward to restoring the shed to a place where I can work and use as a pitting shed to prepare plants for the allotment. Currently the shed is crammed with stuff that for some reason I thought would come in handy one day, I realise that’s a very typical male thing to do. As I said in my post of yesterday this year will be a year of getting rid of the clutter and only having things that have a direct use. It is the same notion I have about the allotment this year. My aim is to curate my allotment by growing and planting plants that will have a use in the creation of a botanical garden for creating a vermouth.

Other plant and vegetable with be planted up in order to store and ferment to be used in cooking. Having said that I will grow broad beans, garlic, onions and a range of root crop vegetables, I love beetroot and last year I manage to grow to good crop of heritage beats.

Over past few months little has changed with the back garden so I aim to complete the makeover by the end of March, as with the allotment the only jobs completed have been to prepare to raised beds then plant the garlic and broad bean. The large vine has been pruned in order to give a good crop of grapes and the apple trees pruned along with other soft fruit such as gooseberry. The remaining fruit trees will be pruned in the summer.

The other job I will commence is the restoration of the riverbank which forms part of my allotment plot. There is a good head of Chubb in the river so at some stage I hope to sit in the dappled sunlight to fish later in the year.

I will aim to document the developments month by month.

A time to write…

Over recent years I have found it difficult to write, not that I didn’t want to but simply my mind and emotions weren’t in the right place. Previously writing had been a release from the stresses of life and a channel for my creativity documenting the way I observed life and my surroundings. Recently I have realised that my love for nature, gardening, foraging and history mean more than I thought to my general well being.

Walking the foreshore of the Thames most days allowed me time to reflect on life and the study of the foreshore for signs of the past were absorbing, much in the same way as casting a fly to a trout, trotting a float along the margin for that tug or hurling a spinner into a dark pool for that ferocious snatch of a pike or salmon looking for that last meal to give it the energy to push upstream.

As they say much water has passed under the bridge of late but I still yearn each day to get my fix of the tidal river or pounding seas of the south coast.

If you have followed me on other social media platforms then you will know that I have found solace in the caretaking of a neighbours allotment whilst they are in distant lands for an extended period of time. For me the allotment has given me much pleasure, a place where I can choose to be alone and emmerse myself in looking after my own little bit of paradise or share the experience with family and friends.

I have decided to write again, fish again and share my experience on the allotment because it helps get me through the daily pressures of life.

I’ve decided to scale back things in life and focus on those things that are truly important. I don’t need all the tackle I’ve accumulated over the years, one rod, one reel in each category of fishing will do. It’s a time in my life where I have worked out to let go of many things. Like many millennials, life is about experience and not about the possession you have. Since loosing my father the penny dropped, you can’t take possessions with you but memories last longer, the less clutter the clearer you can see life and the more important issues.

For many years I have been aware of the environment and in my own way done what I can to draw peoples attention to certain issues, from plastic waste on the tidal Thames to water extraction and pollution on our southern chalk stream. The plight of inshore fishing affecting sea-trout and salmon farms in Scotland affecting the wel being of the natural salmon population, goes without saying the effect of Global Warming which is and has been for some time a real issue that will impact on mankind and the lives of generation sto come, we simply can5 bury our heads in the sand on this issue, we have to face up to it there has to be change and change for the good.

Hopefully over weeks to come I can share my observation, experiences and stories in an informative way. To those that have continued to follow the ramblings of the Tales By The Riverbank I thank you all and wish you well for 2020.

The fifth day of Advent…

The frost was thick on this fifth day of Advent, the sky was clear at 4.30am when started to get myself together for a flight to Glasgow.

It is evident that Christmas will be soon upon us, trees, hedgerows and gables are all festooned with Christmas lights. Music on the car radio down to Gatwick resonated with Christmas classics and everywhere I went during the day the sounds of 50’s and 60’s reminded me of my early childhood.

As this weeks draws to an end there is a little excitement at the thought of getting the decorations down from the loft, putting on a Christmas carol playlist, heating up the mulled wine and easing into the Christmas spirit.

On the forth day of Advent

Nature brings beauty to the hedgerow in winter in all manner of ways. Seed heads, fruit and coloured stems of rubis demonstrate the way that nature presents itself. Whilst the festive season fast approaches I can’t help but look around at nature’s baubles, stars and ribbons. Holly, rose hip, mistletoe and ivy all add to the dressing of Christmas. The abundance of berries are nature’s larder to get the wildlife through the harsh winter month.

Another year, so here is a post for the first day of Advent

Sheer pressures of work, balancing out mental and physical health have pushed me to focus on other areas of my life than writing my blog. There has been little fishing over the year but what I have done has been rewarding.

There has been little if any vintage tackle purchased and very few visits to car boots, to be honest Mrs Tales has banned my from adding to my collection. My one therapy for the year has been my focus on the allotment I have been asked to take care of whilst neighbours have moved away for a while. I have to say the allotment has been great fun and very rewarding.

We’ve only been fishing a handful of tines during the year, a few fly fishing forays and a few sea fishing trips targeting bass. One trip on a boat with Robin Howard who runs a boat out of Brighton Marina was great fun and productive with a couple of PB achieved by young Tales and myself as I caught my first cod of the year on a soft bait.

Hopefully 2020 will afford us the time to do more fishing.

On this first day of Advent I present you with a box full of vintage pike floats.

Dry January, snowy February …

January passed all to quickly, well for me anyway for most not soon enough. I managed to get out fishing a couple of times, once on the Pembrokeshire coast the other an afternoon out with fishing guru Robin Howard off the Sussex Coast in his boat in somewhat cold conditions, however it was an afternoon of catching several species.

Robin Howard is a fabulous fisherman and Guide he possesses an immense amount of knowledge and experience, he is also a great teacher. On the day I went out on his fast boat from Brighton Marina it was calm, bright and cold. Opting for a rig of small feathers on light tackle we were targeting herring, however there were none to be seen although the conditions we right and a few days before these delicate ladies of the sea were a plenty. Having covered a couple of good marks it wasn’t long before we were into fish, Whiting to start with then several small bass. Switching rigs to a soft Shad set above a heavy lure which acted as weight we manage to get down to some larger fish within minutes a large Wrasse took the soft bait and after several casts larger Bass and Pouting took the time and time again. What was a surprise was to catch a Mackerel, the first for me in 2019 and possibly the boat.

It never ceases to amazes me the diverse species of fish off the Sussex Coast especially so early in the year, possibly down to a warm summer maintaining higher water temperature late into the year. Now in February we are seeing some of the lowest temperatures across the nation and over the last couple of days some heavy snow for the first couple of days of February.

This morning Mrs H and I spent time on the allotment I have been given to look after. Having spend a good six months getting it back into a workable state, over the winter months raised beds have be dug and prepared with the enrichment of stable manure, garlic, shallots, onion and broad brand sown. The fruits trees and vine all pruned and the area of woodland and riverbank beside Beverley Brook is now being prepared to turn into a woodland garden planted up with Hostas , Ferns , Hellebores ( Lividus White Marble) , Digitalis, Snowdrops, Ivy and some ground cover such as Bergenia Harzkristall and Eroica, Liriope Muscari ( Moneymaker), Ajuga Black Scallop and bulb planting of Scilla. I can’t wait to get this area sorted in order to sit among it and watch the Chubb and Dace in the shallow of this tributary to the Thames.

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

As we put our toe into the water in more ways than one in 2019, I reflect on a few days spent on in the splendour of the Pembrokeshire Coast where I took the family to stay with close friends to see in the new year.

After a good 4hr plus drive along the M4 and the A40 we found ourselves back in a familiar location, a remote cottage nestled in a small valley and literally within a stones throw of the sea. In fact this year the sea seemed even closer as this area is susceptible to coastal erosion, the car park which services dog walkers, surfers and those waking the Pembrokeshire Costal Path is getting smaller each year. The seasonal storms shift the rocks from the foreshore with ease. One year we witness the arrival of a steel girder on one tide to see it removed out of sight on the next, the sea on this coast has an unimaginable power that shapes the shore like turning a page in a book.

We arrived just after dusk so settled in to the cottage spending the evening catching up over a sausage casserole and glass of wine or two. The following morning gave me my first chance to inspect the beach to see how it much it had changed since last year, and change it had with at least a good 9ft of the car park now out at sea. The shingle and boulders that make up the structure of the foreshore had significantly moved.

During the day we walked up and over the hilltop onto the coastal path, again each year the shoreline below changes with more coastal erosion and rock falls. It doesn’t take long for it to sink in that at some stage the coastal path will have to move further inland as in one or two places the current path is only a couple of yards wide before a sheer drop to the rocks below. This part of the Pembrokeshire Coast is simply beautiful if not breathtaking. The change in colour of the rock formation below and strata changes with every cove, sheep graze on cliff tops so steep that I can only imagine that one or two have ended up getting a salty bath. Littered across land are the footings of buildings of the Industrial Age. Slate mines and the supporting infrastructure abandoned over a century ago still remind us of harsh lifestyles people had in this region, yet the building last as a legacy, if you close your eyes you can imagine the hustle and bustle of the coastal mining towns right down to the noise of the servicing rail trucks.

Our walk took us to Porthgain a small inlet and fishing village, home to cafes, restaurants, art galleries, gift shops and The Sloop Inn where we stopped for a light refreshment before heading back up and across the cliff tops as the light started to fade away as the sun set.

Far from the madding crowd…


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It’s as if I’ve selected catch up on the TV and I’m just about to watch another episode of Country File, this time its for our annual pilgrimage to a remote cottage on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path near Abereiddy, in fact the cottage is literally a stones throw from the sea. This place is a sanctuary for us in order to recharge the batteries before we embark on another busy year.

Over the next few days we aim do walk more of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, do some fishing, drawing, reading and chill out with friends.