Recent paintings

Since writing Jenny Wren to the rescue and and illustrating the book with my paintings, I decided to paint for fun rather than for a specific purpose.

I’ve been experimenting with both watercolours and gouache. Looking back over some of my earlier works I can see improvements.

Here are some of my recent works.

I regularly walk through the nearby countryside and this hollow oak always looks so good. It is a popular place for children who can go inside and maybe visit secret places…

There is a ruined church near us that caught the morning light so beautifully.

I’ve been trying to find the best way to paint bark and leaves. Here is a study of a tree with ivy growing round it.

I often take photos of birds, both from my walks and those that visit my garden.

Last year we had Great Spotted Woodpeckers bring their young along to show them where the food is. It was great to see the parent feeding the young. This inspired the painting of the three woodpeckers.

Along the river we get many waders. This is a dunlin.

And finally, here is a composite picture of several birds that I have seen nearby. Of course Jenny Wren and Bobby Robin are here, but Jason Jay was away. Can you recognise the others?

Books, nature

Jenny Wren to the rescue

Nannie RaRa has published her latest book: Jenny Wren to the rescue.

This is the tale of Jenny Wren who was looking for some tasty creatures to eat for lunch. But who will be eaten?

Gregory Grasshopper looks very appetising, but instead of eating him they become friends.  Jenny narrowly misses being eaten by a sparrowhawk while protecting Gregory from a frog.

Does Jenny eventually find her lunch? Read the book to find out.

The book is illustrated with paintings done in watercolour and gouache by Nannie RaRa, mostly from photographs she has taken.

Jenny Wren looking for a spider to eat
Jenny Wren looking for a spider to eat
The baby pigeon had fallen out of the nest
The baby pigeon had fallen out of the nest
Benny Blue Tit kept a look out
Benny Blue Tit kept a look out
Gregory Grasshopper would help Jenny get out of the soak away
Gregory Grasshopper would help Jenny get out of the soak away
The frog was going to eat Gregory
The frog was going to eat Gregory
Watch out for the sparrowhawk
Watch out for the sparrowhawk
Lunch at last for Jenny Wren
Lunch at last for Jenny Wren

It is available from Amazon both as a paperback and in electronic format.

Jenny Wren to the rescue: paperback

Jenny Wren to the rescue: ebook


Garden rambles

I was given a gardener’s day book as a gift and it has inspired me to write about my garden. I won’t write every day but will jot things down and share them every now and again. Firstly, a look at the garden in August 2021

It was a cold spring this year but the wild greengage plum in the front garden has yielded over 30 lbs of plums despite the blackbirds feasting on them even while they were being picked.  Previous years have only produced a handful of plums.

Date pickedWeight plums in pounds

The plums have been cooked and frozen, made into a plum pudding cake, given away and eaten as soon as they were picked.


Some of the first ones were underripe so they were left in the garage. They have ripened extremely well and were then eaten raw.

Stoned fruits should be pruned while the sap is still rising, so just after they have fruited is a good time. I’ve now pruned some low growing branches on the plum tree so that I can get the mower underneath.

I’ve also pruned a few branches on the damson tree. This was grown from a seed from the previous damson tree that was in the garden. It doesn’t usually have many damsons – only two this year.

The fourth of August was my flying ant day. There are a couple of ant nests in the garden and the flying ants always seem to happen on the same dry sunny day. They only appear for about an hour or two, then they are all gone.

On 6 August 2021 the rain gauge showed 0.3” rain from the previous night. It was a warm day, 22 C, but with a strong breeze and occasional showers and downpours.

pink oriental lilies

In the garden at the moment are the lilies in pots on the steps – some are already past their best but the pink ones are still wonderful.

They looked magnificent. I bought a collection from Harts Nursery called ‘Colourful Chelsea’ Lily Collection. They were a mix of Oriental and Oriental Trumpet lilies.

They attract both flies and wasps. But beware getting the pollen on you as it stains yellow.

As the petals fall off I cut off the flowering heads but left the leaves to continue to feed the bulbs for next year’s flowers.

bumble bee on lavendar

The English lavender is in full bloom. I have seen various bumble bees on there but only one honey bee. Honey bees have been scarce this year although there were plenty on the orange buddleia early in the year.

rebell, crocosmia, toadflax

The gazanias are closed today as the sun is hiding behind the clouds. They are so bright when the sun is out.  There are a couple of harebells flowering under the hawthorn hedge which were self-seeded. They had flowers earlier in the year which I cut back and more have now bloomed. The crocosmia is a lovely dark red. There is an abundance of common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) with the yellow flowers like miniature antirrhinums.

The hollyhocks are in flower and the tall stems of the purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) are blowing in the wind. They attract the bees.

The fuchsias in the front bed are doing well. They were moved earlier this year from a west facing fence in the back garden. They are now in a bed facing north and seem to like it better there. They are not over fond of hot sun.

In the small vegetable patch, there are two ready-to-eat courgettes – already I’ve eaten several small ones.  When the flower dies I twist the stalk to remove them from the plant. There have been a continuous crop. I’ve eaten them all while they are small either steamed or fried with tomatoes as a base for an omelette. I picked the two ripe courgettes today and steamed them with some runner beans from my father’s garden.

runner beans growing up apple tree

My runner beans have reached the top of the poles. I’ve attached a cane from the beans to the apple tree so the runners can climb further. The runner bean flowers took a while to set this year but now there are plenty of beans. I am also given lots of the ready-sliced variety from my father.

The tomatoes are ripening well. I’ve eaten several, picking them as I walk past. I usually add water gel crystals to the compost in the pots so that the plants hold the mositure better, but I must have forgotten in one pot. This tomato plant dries out more quickly than the others and it was noticeable as these tomatoes weren’t as juicy as usual. Extra water soon fixed that.

There are beetroot ready to harvest, I boiled a few and ate them with a salad. A couple had started to bolt so I pulled those up and added to the compost.

The chives have seeded so that there are hundreds of new ones growing all over the place.

The wild strawberries have berries on them. They look red but close up still have a lot of white so they need to wait a day or two longer. I forgot about them, then when I looked a few days later there were a handful ready to pick and eat. They have an intense flavour.

There was a good crop of strawberries this year although later than usual. Once they had finished fruiting, I chopped back the plants to about three inches from ground level. I did this for the first time last year, and think this helped with the good crop this year. The new leaves started to grow back and after a few weeks are the same size and height as before but look much fresher. The strawberries on the vegetable patch have sent out runners and I’ve encouraged these to be spaced apart.

The pineberry – a strawberry plant with a pineapple flavour was a huge success. The fruit starts green but is ripe when it has a pink blush. It tastes delicious. It had a large quantity of fruit and has sent several runners out.

The raspberries have finished fruiting and I’ve taken down the netting which protected them from the birds. There are many stems for next year’s fruit, some a lot taller than last years.

There are only a couple of walnuts on the tree. Last year there were plenty of walnuts. The sweet chestnut tree has several growing fruits on it. Last year they were very small but this years are starting to fill out.

woodpeckers, wren

There are two great spotted woodpeckers on the peanut feeders. Sometimes there are three of them in the garden, but then they chase each other. Earlier the adults were feeding the young.

When I returned one early evening, there were a troop of young wrens bobbing along the fence.

The blue tits are on the peanut feeders all day and have been all summer. Usually, blue tits aim to have their brood at the same time as caterpillars hatch out on the oak trees. The cold spring delayed the caterpillars so I suspect the parents fed the babies on the peanuts, hence the young blue tits now see peanuts as their main food.

The marjoram growing under the bay tree has still its white flowers which have been out for several weeks. This morning when I wandered round the garden between showers, I noticed a honey bee busy there.


The agapanthus is in full bloom with the blue flower heads looking gorgeous.

Cyclamen are one of my favourite flowers. I love the way the stem appears and the flowers secretly come out before the leaves emerge. They appear as the summer blooms are rapidly fading. The pink is almost a glow-in-the-dark colour. If you dig them up to transplant them the corms can be as big as dinner plates.

The first cyclamen appeared in mid-August. Not in my garden but in my fathers. I searched and searched for mine but they weren’t yet there. The next day I cut down some long grass and noticed some pink among it. It was the first cyclamen, now to go into a vase indoors.

The grass has been cut weekly this month. Oftentimes in August the grass becomes parched and dusty dry, but this year has been wetter and the grass has stayed green and growing. I enjoy cutting the grass, because as you go round the garden you can see reminders of jobs that need doing.

I was never one for taking particular care in have a neat grass edge, but having done it for a few weeks now it does make the whole garden look tidy.

I’ve weeded the garden quite regularly. Each season has its own flowers in bloom and the weeds are seasonal as well. I’ve cleared the ground around the new beech hedging.

And ready for next spring, the forget-me-nots have tiny seedlings growing in the borders.

That’s all for this month. I’ll update you at the end of September.


The birds are back

This week I heard the first cuckoo heralding the arrival of the summer migrants. The nightingales have returned and have started their singing. I’ve seen many birds lately on my morning walks and thought I’d share some pictures with you.

A chaffinch pulling the petals from the blackthorn
A chaffinch pulling the petals from the blackthorn
A chiffchaff amongst the branches
A chiffchaff amongst the branches
My first ever sighting of a treecreeper
My first ever sighting of a treecreeper
A pied wagtail on overhead wires - they are usually seen on the ground wagging their tail as they walk
A pied wagtail on overhead wires – I usually see them on the ground wagging their tail as they walk
A great tit waiting its turn on the peanut feeders
A great tit waiting its turn on the peanut feeders
A green woodpecker in the field looking for ants and insects
A green woodpecker in the field looking for ants and insects
A song thrush - what a beautiful song they sing
A song thrush – what a beautiful song they sing
A pair of red-legged partridges visited the garden
A pair of red-legged partridges visited the garden
A wren singing – they make such a loud noise for such a tiny bird
And finally friend robin, who is always there


Signs of spring

Today, on my walk in the countryside and looking round my garden, I noticed so many signs of spring.

There is a lone aconite with its bright yellow petals, still showing the rain or dew on its leaves.


The first purple crocuses were out. They are in a flower bed with a south facing wall behind them.


My wild strawberry has a flower. In my garden are several wild strawberries which must have been seeded by the birds. I’m looking forward to eating the sweet fruits later in the year.

wild strawberry
Wild strawberry

The snowdrops are pushing up through the grass. I have seen some already out in a neighbour’s sheltered spot.


The Christmas rose (Hellebore) has a flower ready to burst open. Although they are called Christmas rose mine never flower then.

Christmas rose
Christmas rose

I’ve had lots of daffodils showing their leaves but today I noticed a flower bud. I love seeing the narcissi out – the yellow of daffodils really is the colour of spring.


The violets have had flowers all  winter, hiding their heads under the leaves. I have some other wild violets which will not flower until later in the spring.


The buds on the horse chestnut are fattening and becoming sticky.

Horse chestnut buds
Horse chestnut buds

In the woods the bluebells are pushing their way through the fallen leaves. The beautiful scent as you walk through carpets of bluebells is well worth waiting for.


All in all this bright sunny day heralds spring.