Friday, 31 August 2012

Farm Fixer at Duck Pond

Duck Pond Tea Room

Paralympic runner Sally Brown has been featuring on our screens quite a lot recently in the run up to the London Paralympics. Soon however it will be the turn of her father, Richard Brown, to appear on Northern Ireland's television screens.

Next Monday (BBC1 10.35 pm) sees the start of a new series called "The Farm Fixer," hosted by Nick Hewer from "The Apprentice," and "Countdown." In this series, Nick visits eight farms around Northern Ireland, highlighting their problems and suggesting ways for the owners to improve their businesses. Somewhat surprisingly the series has already been screened in Britain.

The 15th October episode takes Nick Hewer to Paul Craig's Arkhill Farm on the Drumcroone Road, Garvagh. This is a small organic mixed farm. When Paul set up in business some fifteen years ago there was a farm shop which also served teas. This closed several years ago but last year Richard Brown took over the building and established the Duck Pond Tea Room. Nick will suggest ways in which Paul and Richard can work together so as to  benefit  both of their businesses.

The Ducks

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Smokey Flowers

Nicotiana - 28th August 2012

This is the second year that I have grown nicotiana flowers, (tobacco flowers), in the garden. Last year the variety grown had white flowers and the plants ended up three feet high. Too tall for the location I had chosen for them. This year I chose a shorter variety with lime coloured flowers. I have them planted in quite a shaded area but they are flowering well and there is quite an intense perfume in the evening air.

Although some of the genus are perennials even those that are tend to be grown as annuals in the UK. The name, "nictotiana," comes from a sixteenth century French ambassador to Portugal called Jean Nicot. It is the plant nictotania tabacum which is grown commercially for tobacco. I remember seeing them being grown in a greenhouse  in the mid nineteen sixties. My recollection is that the leaves were very tacky.

Monday, 27 August 2012

New Flags Dispute for Northern Ireland?

The Giant's Causeway is a World Heritage Site. UNESCO have determined that it contains, "superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance." Why then has the German  artist Hans Peter Kuhn been permitted to erect one hundred and forty, "flags" below the cliff face at Port Noffer? In the opinion of the writer these add nothing to the view, rather they detract from it.

These "flags," are not what most people would even regard as flags. They are rigid squares of some man made plastic measuring perhaps thirty inches by thirty inches. On one side they are coloured yellow and on the other red. They are attached to short metal posts and there is a swivel arrangement which, depending on the direction of the wind, results in either the red side or yellow side being visible. They all caused the writer to see red!

This is not Herr Kuhn's first artistic installation. The National Trust website tells us that he was acclaimed in Singapore for suspending dozens of moving neon tubes at the Orchard Central Mall. Well done him. Maybe this type of art suits modern man made structures, but it does nothing to enhance the natural landscape. The one redeeming fact about this garish pollution of the coastline is that the, "flags" are to be removed in early November. Hooray! Not a day too soon.  The cost of the project is reported to have been £150,000, shared between the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Money well spent?

The writer did not detain himself at the Giant's Causeway overly long. The view was not to be appreciated. A recuperative snifter at The Nook was required before wending through the dunes to Portballintrae and from thence home.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Bean Bonanza

Runner Beans - 22nd August 2012
As predicted in my post of 19th July the runner beans reached the top of the bamboo canes by the end of that month. This prompted me to nip out the growing tips to prevent the plants becoming top heavy. I have been able to pick pods for the last week or so. They have set well and the rash of flowers that is still on the plants bodes well for cropping until the end of September.

 I will definitely grow them again next year although I might try to get them in slightly earlier. Whilst some people grow runner beans in rows I think that the wigwam method is a more efficient  and attractive use of space.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Freedom for Freddie Frog

Freddie - post release.
I was down in the cellar this morning. Not an usual event. I had decided upon a leisurely twenty minutes on the concept rowing machine prior to breakfast. Again nothing unusual. I had just embarked upon this course of exercise when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought that I saw something move. Glancing over to my right I saw what looked to be a dried leaf on the floor.Maybe a dried onion scale which I had omitted to sweep up whenever the last of the stored onions were used up I told myself.

I resumed my rowing trying to maintain an even stroke rate. Suddenly there was another movement and it definitely was a movement. The thing on the floor had hopped. I stopped rowing, undid the foot straps and went to investigate. The trespasser was a small common frog. Its body was about two inches long. How it had managed to infiltrate the cellar I am not quite sure. It may have been through one of the ventilation bricks. Deciding that the cellar was probably not the ideal long term home for Freddie I managed to place a large jar over him and slip a piece of cardboard under the jar. I then marched him outside and released him.

When I returned to the rowing machine my initial efforts were no longer displayed on the screen. Blast! The twenty minutes had to be started anew.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tomatoes at Last

I have never known my tomatoes to be so dilatory in ripening. But at last I am able to go out to the greenhouse in the morning dew and pick myself a tomato for breakfast. At that time of day I favour them raw with a smidgen of salt, or alternatively lightly fried with a handful of wild mushrooms and a couple of rashers of bacon to provide the protein fix. Whilst the tomato crop is as yet predominately green it does seem to be a heavy crop. Even the first trusses, which  as a rule tend to be rather light, have up to twelve good sized tomatoes.

Hopefully we have above average sunlight hours for the next five to six weeks and I don't end up with too many green tomatoes. With the number of plants which I have there will inevitably be more tomatoes than I can use on a day to day basis. The excess will be used for soup and chutney.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A Wilde Family

More Lives Than One  - Gerard Hanberry   -  The Collins Press

Whilst Oscar Wilde and the main events of his colourful life culminating in his death in Paris on 30th November 1900 gives the structure to this book it is what you learn about his family, in particular his mother and father, that gives the book its interest.

 His father, William ,was clearly a talented ear and eye surgeon as well as being an accomplished antiquarian and statistician. It was primarily for his work on the Irish census that he received his knighthood. Although he was at the centre of Dublin Society he certainly had a past which had it been widely known would certainly have ostracised him from the drawing rooms of most of his nineteenth century friends and acquaintances. We are told that he fathered three illegitimate children before he married Oscar's mother. The younger two, both girls, died in early adulthood as a result of burns when the ball gown of one of them caught fire. The other girl went to the assistance of her sister and her dress also succumbed to the flames. We also learn of Sir William's debateable relationship with a Miss Travers.

Oscar's mother had a much more overtly colourful life than her husband. Although she came from a staunchly unionist family she became involved in the Young Ireland movement during the 1840's and calling herself, "Speranza," she contributed nationalistic poems to its newspaper, the Nation. Her marriage to Oscar's father seems to have been precipitated by the death of her mother. At that time it was not considered acceptable for a young woman to live alone. In later life, after the death of her husband and living in London, Lady Jane comes across as a rather sad and pathetic woman. She appears as a caricature of what she once was. Despite her much reduced circumstances she still has her ,"at homes," and conversaziones, trying to relive the lifestyle she had in Dublin at 1 Merrion Square.

Oscar's dissolute elder brother William also features in this book as does Oscar's wife, Constance, who tragically dies in 1898 after a spinal operation leaving her two boys to be brought up by an aunt. By that stage Constance and the boys had adopted the surname of Holland.

An interesting book which reads well

Cucumber Challenge

Cucumber - Telegraph - 20th August 2012.

What does one do with a surplus of cucurbits, or more particularly a surplus of cucumbers?  I pulled six this morning. That gives a total of twelve that need processing. About twenty pounds in weight. Too many for cucumber sandwiches me thinks.

A neighbour is about to harvest the honey from her bee hives, so casting a few cucumbers on the waters might elicit a couple of jars of honey in exchange. That would leave ten. I did see an article in the Daily Telegraph magazine a few weeks back lauding a book on Mexican cooking. A recipe for , "Cucumber Aqua Fresca," was published and it was suggested that this was ,"a brilliant way of using up a glut," of cucumbers. A glut for the purposes of this article was however only four cucumbers. Still that would bring me down to six to deal with. What to do with them? It seems that you can make cucumber chutney. Mustard powder appears to be one of the main ingredients for this delicacy so that Aqua Fresca may be needed to dowse a chap's burning taste buds. With the production of the chutney that should leave only three cucumbers whose fate has to be decided upon. Pickled in vinegar would seem a suitable end for these laggards .

Now what to do with next weeks crop?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Off Track

I should be in Tullamore this weekend, with all the other athletes of more mature years , competing at the Irish Masters Track & Field Championships. Unfortunately injury has struck me again. Nothing serious. I can still run in relative comfort at seven minute per mile pace, but any faster and my left leg shouts a resounding no.

Reality struck when I attempted a time trial on Tuesday. Up until then I was hoping the damaged muscle fibres would have healed in time. In anticipation of that I even sent in my entry. Lady luck has however decided to rain on my parade as 'twere. I have also had to forgo the inter regional competition in Solihull at the beginning of September. Logic tells me that I will probably be fully recovered by then, but equally it would be wrong for me to commit to something when I am not race fit. Hey ho!

I will now have to revise my targets. December brings the start of the indoor season. It also sees me in a new age category. Perhaps I will manage one or two road races before then, but I think that I will schedule my training so as to achieve a reasonably fast season's debut on the boards just before Christmas or in early January. The joys of cross country do not hold any attractions for me.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cabbage Green

Three across. Nine letters. "American bus that could enter Waterloo Cup." Answer? Why Greyhound of course. I don't know why this popular variety of small cabbage was given this name. It's not as if the leaves are greyish green. Perhaps it is because it is quite quick growing. More prosaically I suspect that some plant breeder just thought it up on the spur of the moment. He had to give it some retail name and that of  "greyhound" came to him as he sprinkled his infant plants with their daily benefaction of water.

Cabbage - Greyhound - 17th August 2012

I have been cutting heads of this cabbage for the past month. The seed was sown indoors in the middle of March and when the seedlings were large enough they were transplanted into standard size trays with eighteen plants per tray. They were planted out in mid May. I have planted them quite close together. The spacing is no more than fifteen inches. With more room they would grow slightly larger but I prefer the tighter planting as it cuts down on weeding and leaves me more room for other things.

Free Food

Growing vegetables definitely has its rewards ,but effort is required. Sowing, pricking out, planting out, weeding, weeding and yet more weeding. It all takes time. Sometimes however the garden provides food without any counterbalance of work.

This morning I picked over a pound of mushrooms. I don't pretend to have any great knowledge of our fungal friends, but I have been assured previously by someone who reputedly does, that the variety I picked today is edible. Certainly there doesn't seem to be any ill affects from consuming them in soups and salads over the last seventeen years. Mabe I have just got used to their toxins!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Londonderry's Black Man

As late as the nineteen seventies Londonderry mothers could be heard admonishing their recalcitrant children with threats that , "the Black Man," would come and get them if they did not behave . This was not some politically incorrect term gleaned from listening to the lofty Don Estelle but rather was a reference to the statue of Sir Robert A. Ferguson which has stood at the entrance to the city's Brook Park for over eighty years. Even on a bright summer's day there is something rather intimidating about this statue. Sir Robert glowering down from his pedestal at those entering the Park and scuttling past him. Maybe it was the fear that he instilled in the youth of the City that saved him from elevation and destruction from a few pounds of home made explosive during the, "Troubles." 

This statue was not always in Brook Park. It was originally erected in the Diamond at the top of Shipquay Street. It was removed from there and re-erected in its present location in the late twenties to facilitate the erection of the War Memorial.

Statue of Sir Robert Ferguson, Brook Park
Who was this baronet? Born on the 26th December 1796 he was the eldest son of Sir Andrew Ferguson and his wife Elizabeth (daughter of Robert Alexander of Boom Hall.). It is suggested that the baronetcy was created as compensation for Andrew Ferguson when he lost his seat with the Act of Union. Prior to the Act  the Borough of Londonderry returned two members to the Irish House of Commons but only one was permitted to join the House of Commons of Great Britain and Ireland on 1st January 1801. The continuing member was Henry Alexander. Andrew Ferguson resigned and accordingly there was not the necessity of drawing lots. That was the selection process for fifteen boroughs.

Robert succeeded to the baronetcy on 17th July 1808 consequent upon his father's death in a carriage accident at a bridge near Moville.

At the general election held on 17th August 1830 Sir Robert was returned for the borough of Londonderry. There were at that time apparently no more than 450 voters. There were 258 votes in his favour and 87 for his closest opponent John R J Hart . His election was ultimately declared to be void. It appears that he was technically still the returning officer at the time of the vote and therefore ineligible to stand. A bye-election was then held and he again defeated Hart, this time by 202 votes to 62. Sir Robert continued to represent the City until his death on the 13th March 1860 when the baronetcy became extinct. Both Sir Robert and his father are buried in St Augustine's graveyard, Londonderry.

Sir Robert's seat was at The Farm, Culmore Road Londonderry. That property eventually came into the hands of the McFarland family and was ultimately developed for housing. My recollection is that building works started in the late 1960's or early 1970's. Prior to that certain of the lands were used by Aberfoyle Nurseries for growing cut flowers.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Double Killer Remains Free

Two nights. Two identical killings. In neither case did the killer show any remorse. Both victims squealed in terror, a shrill plaintive plea. The killer was deaf to this, intent only upon her gory pleasure. She played her victims, letting them hope for freedom, but finally, deftly, dispatching them. She was not content with terrorising and killing her prey. Now there was the satisfaction of a fresh meat dinner.

The outside cat, Whatsit by name, has decided to go for bigger game, forsaking mice and shrews for tender teenage bunnies. There isn't much of a rabbit that a cat won't eat, just a few entrails and the bobtail. Nature can be a bit tooth and claw, but I can't regret the passing of a few rabbits. The rabbit population has definitely been rising over the past few years and is becoming a problem. I have had to place chicken wire around portions of the vegetable plot to protect seedlings.

Maybe I should forget to feed the cat tonight in the hope that a few more of the species oryctolagus cunniculus meet their nemesis.
The Killer

Monday, 13 August 2012

Cropping Courgettes

Courgette - Variety Zucchini - 13th August 2012
Complaints of slow growth and slow ripening of crops are very common with gardeners this year. My courgettes have certainly been slow to get into production, but between my three plants I am now getting a courgette every other day.  Initially I lost a couple of fruit due to rot starting at the tips, but that problem has been remedied by remembering to place small pieces of slate under the fruit to stop them having contact with the soil.

So long as one remembers to keep harvesting the courgettes when the fruit are small the plants will continue to crop until the first frosts arrive. It is probably a limited number of courgettes that you can use raw in salads or as a cooked vegetable.  The best way of dealing with surpluses is, I think, to make soup, most especially if you are away for a few days and come home to small marrows rather than courgettes. Allowing the fruit to become too big will reduce the productivity of your plant greatly. All its energies go into feeding the," cuckoo," fruit.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Summer is a Beach

Benone Beach 10th August 2012
The last few days have finally brought us balmy summer weather and not before time. I decided to go to Benone beach yesterday to enjoy the weather and the scenery and at the same time clock up a few miles of Chariots of Fire training. The Olympics make you think like that. The problem was that most every other Tom, Dick and Harriett had the same idea. Well half the same idea anyhow. There certainly wasn't anyone else going for a run.

I don't want to appear curmudgeonly but I do like a bit of quiet. Still it wasn't too bad. Although there might have been upwards of one hundred and fifty cars on the beach when I arrived, all of them apart from three intrepid vehicles were corralled around two ice cream vans. Maybe their occupants needed the security of ice cream, crisps and sugary drinks.

I headed up towards Magilliagn Point. Once I left the cars behind I only came upon one person, a man in his late thirties walking his black lab. Both looked happy. There was no one on the beach at the Point. The softness of the sand there I think puts people off. As I turned and began to retrace my steps I could see the glint of the ferry as it began its journey across from Greencastle.

One of the ice cream vans had left by the time I had ran back to my starting point. So had half the cars. I wonder if there is a connection?

Roll on still and frosty winter mornings when I can have the beach to myself!

Friday, 10 August 2012

No Gold for Houvenaghel.

Not even her third bike!
I see from Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph that Wendy Houvenaghel believes that she and Northern Ireland have been robbed of an Olympic medal by Team GB Cycling. In order for her to have gained a gold medal in the ladies team pursuit in common with her team mates, Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King she would have had to have raced in the first round, the semis or the final. As at the world championships in Australia some four months ago she was a member of the four woman squad. She was not selected to race in Melbourne and her compatriots broke the world record each time they raced there.

We then arrive in London and the trio selected for the qualifying round are Rowsell, Trott and King, the world record holders. They win their race in another world record time. The following day is the semi final and Houvenaghel was told, seemingly by the head coach, that the same line-up was being retained. Surely not a surprise and surely a sensible decision. She states that with less than one hour to the race one of the selected girls was vomiting, but that as the race team had already been declared the line up had to be retained. The result? Yet another win and yet another world record. The selectors then had to decide which three girls should race in the final. Should it be the threesome which had raced five successive world records, albeit that one of their number had been sick earlier in the day, (might that have been nerves?), or should Houvenaghel be brought in?  She tells us that in training, a week before the Olympic final, with her in the line up a faster time was posted than what turned out to be the time in the final. I feel sure that the pros and cons would have been weighed up, but I am not surprised that the ultimate decision was to keep the same line up. The aim for the coaches and selectors was to ensure that the gold medal was won, not that all four squad members should come away with a medal because all four had raced at least once in the competition. In the final the selected threesome raced to yet another world record.

Where I believe GB Cycling have let Houvenaghel down is in their man management skills. She is reported as saying that she was informed that there would be changes after the first round. Clearly there weren't. I suspect that the Upperlands' cyclist may have been seen as a safe pair of legs, someone to bring in if any of the other three didn't perform.

Of course it is bitterly disappointing for Wendy Houvenaghel and her parents. Her feelings of resentment are entirely understandable. We are all human. We all have our dreams but she has been luckier than most in pursuing them as far as she has. I hope that she does stay in competitive cycling. It is by keeping up with and ahead of Rowsell, Trott and King that she will undermine the decision of the selectors and emphasise her contribution to British cycling.

Professional Runners of Yesteryear - The Bunioneers

Running for their Lives  Mark Whitaker  - Yellow Jersey Press

We are now used to the concept of the professional runner, both in terms of the athlete's approach to his sport and his funding. Mark Whitaker's book harks back to an era, not that long ago, when amateurism was king and the professional athlete, the man who earned his living from running, was shunned by the athletics establishment. This is the story of two men, the middle class Arthur Newton who had gone out to South Africa and in particular Natal to seek his fortune and Peter Gavuzzi a ship's steward who wanted to travel.

Newton's notoriety as a long distance runner only began after his fortieth birthday. He took up ultra running in an attempt to make a political point in Natal, but it was to become his means of earning a living. He and Gavuzzi became friends during the first Transcontinental race across America in 1928 and this friendship developed into a business partnership as endurance athletes. Despite their undoubted friendship, Newton was always the leader and Gavuzzi the follower. The latter always referred to his middle class friend as, "Mr Newton."

Neither man made a fortune from their racing and their sponsorship deals and the professional/amateur split meant that they could not openly pass on their knowledge and coaching skills. Both men eked out rather impecunious and lonely old ages with little acknowledgement for their athletic achievements.

Running and runners gives the structure and background for this book but it is not just a book for the avid fan of athletics. There is an element of social documentary. It deals with class divisions and aspects of colonial rule in Africa. It deals with men who were running for their lives.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Main Course Potato

Romano Potatoes - 8th August 2012

With all my early potatoes now eaten I have dug my first top of main crop. The variety which I chose for today's exhumation was, Romano. This is a red skinned potato with cream coloured flesh. It was developed from Desiree and in looks it is very similar. I chose to grow it because it is vaunted as being particularly disease resistant. 

For the last few years I have experienced some leaf blight on my main crop potatoes and I had hoped that Romano would be the potato which would not succumb to those devilish spores. My hopes have not been vindicated. That burnt looking foliage has appeared again. Thankfully the tubers are not affected. They are of a good size, but I am slightly disappointed at the yield from this first top.

The other main crop varieties which I have planted this year are Majestic and Cara.  The latter with its white skin and pink eyes is a particular favourite of mine.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Turnip Head

Turnip - Golden Ball 6th August 2012

At this time of year it is always a question of which vegetables shall I pick for tonight's dinner.  I decided to go for a humble turnip to go along with the balance of the cauliflower which I had cut on Saturday. Humble and non pretentious the turnip may be but it is one of my favourite vegetables. Not even the over boiled mush of school dinners put me off it. I favour the yellow fleshed , "Golden Ball," as a main crop variety. It is particularly sweet and is a good storer. One of these, a rather large specimen, became part of tonight's repast. Another variety which I grow is Snowball. It is a fast growing medium sized white turnip. Tiny Pal is a useful catch crop turnip which grows no larger than a golf ball. I tend to sow it in August after room becomes available with the lifting of the last early potatoes.

Shipbuilding in Londonderry

Most people will be aware of Belfast's involvement in the shipbuilding industry but what they may not realise is that Norhern Ireland's second city also has a history of shipbuilding.

In 1830 the firm of Pitt Skipton & Co, the partners of which were Mr Skipton and a Lieutenant Henderson, agreed to construct what was termed a Patent Slip Dock at a cost of £4,000. This was situated at the bottom of Asylum Road. Initially this seems to have been only used for ship repairs, but Colby's 1837 Survey refers to a vessel of 180 tons register having been launched. We are told that it had been construcetd of Irish Oak and that it was calculated to carry 259 tons.

By 1839 Skipton's yard had been taken over by Capt. William Coppin a native of Kinsale, Co. Cork. The following year this gentleman added a foundry so that boilers and engines could be constructed and the slip was enlarged. Almost four hundred men were employed. The first vessel that Coppin constructed was the, "Ciy of Derry," in 1839 and in 1840 the "Barbara" was launched, with the "Maiden City," following in 1841. The next ship to be launched was the 1750 ton, steam screw powered," Great Northern." This 220 foot long vessel was at the time the largest screw-propelled steamship in the world. The ship's maiden voyage was to the East India Dock in London where it attracted much attention but no buyer. It was eventually scrapped. Coppin went on to launch four small paddle steamers but increasingly his business became one of ship repair and salvage. In the 1860's he moved his business to the new graving dock which had been constructed by the Harbour Commissioners opposite to what is now Longs Supermarket on the Strand Road. His business closed in 1873.

In an attempt to encourage shipbuilding in Londonderry the Harbour Commissioners expended some £25,000 in establishing a shipyard adjacent to their graving dock. In 1886 this was leased to Charles Joseph Bigger, (a son of William Finlay Bigger of Riverview) ,who established the Foyle Shipyard which operated from 1887 to 1892. Some 600 men were employed in the yard and there were five launching berths. In its five years of operation the yard launched twenty five vessels.

Between 1899 and 1904 the Londonderry Shipbuilding  & Engineering Company operated the yard. In 1909 one of its ships, the "Glendun," which had been launched in 1903, transported the stern framing of the Titanic from West Hartlepool to Belfast.

It was in 1912 that the shipyard was reopened for the final time by Trevisa Clarke and his North of Ireland Shipbuilding Company. Within a year the yard was employing 450 men. The years of the Great War saw considerable expansion and by 1922 the workforce stood at 2600, but that year also saw the launch of the last ship ever to be built in Londonderry (SS New York News). By October 1924 the yard had closed.

On a very much smaller scale the late 1960's/early 1970's saw Brookhall Marine advertising to build Sea Angling Craft, Cabin Cruisers and Fishing Boats. Sadly this venture also closed its doors.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Figging Marvellous

Figs -5th August 2012

By way of an update to my post of 20th July I can now report that two of the figs on my fig tree have finally ripened. I pulled them this afternoon. It seemed a pity not to eat them so I did. The flesh was very pink and sweet. Much nicer than bought figs. Well I would say that wouldn't I!

I really must ensure that I give the tree sufficient winter protection when I plant it out. The prospect of pounds of this appetising fruit in years to come is something I want to come to fruition.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Errigal Glen

Errigal Bridge 3rd August 2012
When I was out driving today I decided to go for a short walk through Errigal Glen, Churchtown near Garvagh. The glen is in private ownership but the public have access to the path that runs through the glen and which links Temple Road to Churchtown Road. It was a day where I needed the solicitude of solitude and the walk suited my mood. I parked in the lay bye near to Errigal Bridge and headed up the steeply sided glen. It is heavily wooded with many very large beech trees which were planted by the Heyland family some two hundred years ago.

It is a descendant of the same family who still owns the glen , the adjoining lands and the eighteenth century Ballintemple House which is visible a field width away from the glen. The Heylands were one of the first, "planter," families in Ulster. They arrived in Derry in 1611 before moving to Castleroe, Coleraine in 1641. It was from there that they moved to Ballintemple in the eighteenth century. One of their number, Major Arthur Rowley Heyland of the 40th Regiment of Foot died at the Battle of Waterloo after having survived the Peninsular War and being wounded at the battle of Talavera and again at Roncevalles.Two of his sons subsequently fought in the Crimea.

Running through the glen is the Agivey River. Although it is not always to be seen from the path the sound of the river is always present, sometimes a pleasing gurgle but at other times an urgent roar where the walls of the glen close in and restrict its course.

Once I had joined the Churchtown Road  I followed it up hill, passing the rear of Ballintemple House and then headed down hill to Temple Road and back to Errigal Bridge. Probably no more than a two mile walk but the glen is a place to linger in and to enjoy the scenery.

Errigal Glen - 3rd August 2012
Errigal Glen - 3rd August 2012

Horses at Ballintemple House - 3rd August 2012

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

I'm Running in the Rain

Track athletics is primarily a summer sport. After the cold and dark winter months competing and training on the road or on grass I look forward to a warm spring and sunny summer when I can concentrate on speed sessions and fast reps. It should not be a time when I  have wet kit clawing at me. Rather it should be a time when the sun is beating down on me. It should be a time when spectators at athletic meetings are applying copious quantities of sunscreen, not giving Usain Bolt a run for his money as they try to avoid being soaked in a torrential downpour. 

This past week has been depressingly wet. The only day I managed to avoid a drenching was Monday. Yesterday was particularly bad as I and two others squelched our way around the track. Not only was it raining but the inside lane was a solid long puddle - four hundred metres in length. My hands were alternatively wet and numb. When the session was over we did what we still insisted on calling a cool down. It wasn't. We never became warm in the first place. It was a , "colder down." I was so cold that I lit the woodburner when I arrived home. Thoughts of a hot whiskey crossed my mind.

Wet socks!

I hope that the weather picks up for the track and field events at the Olympics. These events start on Friday. I always think that when they start the Olympics truly start.

Colourful Chard

Chard , "Bright Lights" 30th July 2012

Chard or Swiss Chard as it is also referred to is perhaps the most colourful resident in my vegetable plot. The variety which I grow is called, "Bright Lights." and the midribs are variously pink, red ,yellow or green with innumerable variations of those colours. Some people think that this vegetable, (which is related to the beetroot), is so colourful that they  plant it in their flower borders. Personally I prefer to keep the traditional division between vegetables and flowers, with vegetables in the vegetable patch and flowers in flower beds. That certainly was the view of the gardeners who passed on their tips and knowledge to a very keen schoolboy in the sixties when they were in their sixties. These were men who had spent their entire working lives working as gardeners, mostly at, "the big house." I can't imagine that my views will  change now.

I sowed the seeds outside in mid April, planting the multigerm seeds approximately two inches apart. The seedling plants were subsequently thinned out to four inches apart. Whilst you can cut the entire plant for use it is more usual to just cut outer leaves so as to promote further growth. The green leaves can be used as "greens," whilst the midrib is used much as celery is. With a little protection the plants will survive the winter, but they will then bolt. I am just about to make a second sowing which should be fully mature come the spring and provide veg in the months of March to May when there tends to be a dearth of produce in the veg patch.