Thursday, 8 February 2018


Alder tree flanked by Silver Birches opposite The Victoria Theatre in Halifax. UK.
I expect I will one day turn up to see 'my' tree and report on its monthly progress when the weather is sunny and bright for there are sunny and bright moments in the days. Many of them. But they don't necessarily coincide with when I am able to march to town with camera at the ready. But apart from missing the clarity of detail offered by a sunny morning I don't mind. This is winter.

And it's winter that's giving 'our' tree an opportunity to stand out. In summer these three trees merged into a green blob and the alder was invisible. The brown of its bark is dull and its trunk was permanently in shade. Overwhelmed by the brightness of the silver birches which flank it, their white bark flinging light in all directions, and their lighter branches and droopier leaves creating an elegant haze, it simply vanished. Completely unremarkable. But at the moment, in February, it's stolidness stands out against the hill in the background and the horizontal nature of its branches give it the feel of a pine that's dropped its needles. It's a small tree. At the moment though, with nothing much happening on either side, it looks bigger than it is.

Green/Grey Lichen on Alder in Halifax, UK.

Moving in . . . there are patches of lichen.

Yellow Lichen on Alder in Halifax, UK.

Some little flecks brighter than others. This is about four millimetres at its widest point but its lone splash of tiny colour immediately catches the eye and is of enormous significance in that it makes us look at the bark.

Lucozade bottle abandoned on icy, snowy, grass.

You won't like this. I think. No-body likes litter. Except sometimes I sort of do. Sometimes it's interesting. Like this abandoned Lucozade bottle which does for a manky patch of icy grass much as the little fleck of yellow lichen does for 'our' tree.

Rubbish plastic tearing to shreds in Alder tree.

But the whacking great bit of plastic that has been in this tree right from when I first met it has annoyed me. It's been pretty ugly and I've wished it wasn't there. But now it's beginning to disintegrate and becoming ribbony  it's becoming slightly festive. At least, in this light.

Silhouette of Alder catkins and lamposts against an evening sky.

And it's this light which is fading.

(I'll spare you a picture of the fairy lights.)

* * *

To see this tree over the last few months.



DECEMBER (One picture of inside a Street Plant Post.)

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Dandelion style plant in snow
These kind of plants . . .
I tend to bracket them with dandelions because they have yellow flowers.
But what are they really?
My neck twinges, my knees ache and the small of my back is complaining. I'd thought it would be fun to take photographs of street plants against the almost-full super-moon (even though it wasn't blood-red here). But it rained. Then it snowed. Abandon plan.

New plan - to photograph street plants against the warming sky as the sun came up this morning.

The snow was no longer snow. It had melted and frozen and hardened and slipperified. At the end of our street was a triangular puddle which had frozen hard with a sort of mountain ridge up the middle, dissecting the base and the apex. 'This,' I thought, 'is what the earth looked like when it was formed; when molten rocks pushed up against each other and rose and were made firm. Here,' I thought, 'in this ex-puddle, is a mini-Himalayas and I only left my house two minutes ago!' Thus it was, that marvelling at the wonders of winter - wham! I was down.

Thistle in snow
There are many kinds of thistle.
I doubt this one will grow tall enough to judge properly
before the council mows it along with the grass.
But maybe someone can give it a good (or tentative) ID?
Falling down, one finds, is very much easier than standing up. Informal ice-rinks in public places can plunge one into embarrassment. I crawled around a bit till I found a way to stand, stood, and looked at the prickly, frozen wasteland which stretched ahead. For all that I am devoted to my blog. For all that I had expected my dawn expedition to turn into an early-day street plant post . . . I decided a few photos are not worth dying for, slithered gingerly round in a circle . . . and came home.

Later . . .

The ice is melting. I set out. Sometimes the 'ing' on the end of a word is crucial. Bits of ice may have melted but others were still solid. So . . . down I go again, this time onto my side. And I land in a melted bit. It's becoming a habit this. Free ice-skating lessons! I stand as if I don't mind a thing and go home to change.

Later . . .

Row of plants in snow. (Some kind of willow herb?)
The leaves of this diagonal row of plants are familiar.
But what are they?
Some kind of willow herb?
Or . . . ?
Off I go again. Ahead of me a woman is treading warily, carefully hanging on to some railings, looking round anxiously for the next hand-hold. She launches out unsteadily and reaches a bollard. I take heart. She is making progress. So should I.

I set off up the hill. Half way across the icy expanse of a side road I get stuck. A taxi comes along. The driver slithers backwards into a parking bay. Good, I can proceed. Gingerly I reach the pavement. But the pavement is yet another ice-field and I can't get onto it. Now the taxi is coming back! Oh, help! The pavement has a concrete edging; I find I can stand there without slipping. But no-where else. In a semi-panic I pirouette so I'm facing the main road and proceed to walk pigeon-steps along the pavement's rim till ice gives way to the melt water of a council-salted route.

But despite dripping roofs and gurgling gutters, there are still icy patches. This just isn't working.

Feeling like a tanker that just ploughs ahead once it's on its way, I slide with difficulty to a halt at the edge of a small patch of waste ground. I do not go nose-first into the mix of ice and snow and mush. Progress!

Dandelion style flower in snow
I'm not even sure if this is some kind of dandelion
or some kind of something else.
Photographing street plants on rough ground feels like cheating. I like to find them in surprising places and wasteland is not surprising. Urban waste patches are more like fallow land on a farm than 'proper wild'. But how many times am I prepared to fall? No more!!!!!!!!!! And am I not being a bit snooty? Too pernickety about where I'm prepared to find inspiration? So that is where I landed up. And now . . . (oh! my arm aches!) . . .

For more about Street Plant Blogging.

The Street Plant link box has closed for this month but you can still read February Street Plant Posts on other blogs by clicking on the links below.
There will be a new link box from 1st - 7th March. Get thinking and looking! See if you can join us with your own Street Plant Post then.

Saturday, 20 January 2018


Selection of plants growing on a wall in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
I've decided, for the moment, to keep comparing. Contrasts are interesting. They matter.

The dark walls of Halifax and the surrounding fields bothered me when we arrived. Gloomy. I wasn't sure whether this blackness is intrinsic to the stones the walls are made from or whether it's soot. London used to be black. Westminster Abbey used to be black. Look at it now!

And I can't answer this yet. (Don't worry. I'll find out. Plenty of time.)

I'm getting used to them. What's more, they are a good place to find street plants. So it's another new experience - to look sideways and up, not just down by my feet.

The picture above . . . I think I'll have come back to this exact spot when I do my next 'stuck foot' post. I'll take photographs just of the plants in this immediate scene. So many crammed in together.

Groundsel in front of a wall. West Yorkshire.

Here's a confluence of themes. I'm getting used to a green instead of white light when it rains and finding it's interesting to notice familiar plants in a new context. Groundsel; but camouflaged. The plant and the green on the wall in the rainy late-afternoon light of a January day are in harmony. A unity. An invisibility. It's a surprise. A new experience. When it rains, black walls turn green!

Delicate plant with dark green leaves growing in cracks between stones in a wall in West Yorkshire.

I don't know what this plant is. Can you tell me?

Plant growing in shelter of stones of a wall in West Yorkshire.

What about this one?

This fern below?

Fern growing between stones in a wall. West Yorkshire.

Does it strike you that the stones look like petrified wood?

Why is this ivy red? Can anyone explain?

Red leaved ivy growing creeping to the top of a wall in West Yorkshire.

And below - a foxglove!
Until I came here, I'd not thought of foxgloves as urban wild plants. Very country hedgerow I'd have said. That was . . . until the first post on this blog when I found them growing on top of another wall.

Foxgloves and other plants on wall in West Yorkshire.

On moving from Dorset to West Yorkshire I started again with 'Loose and Leafy in Halifax'. Maybe I made a mistake. Perhaps I should have created a blog dedicated solely to this wall!

If you'd like to join me in noticing and admiring plants growing wild in towns and cities . . . I'll be putting a link box for Street Plant Posts on Loose and Leafy, 1st - 7th February.

Monday, 15 January 2018


On my other blog, Message in a Milk Bottle, I've posted photos from time to time of a little of the countryside within reach of Halifax.

So you may already have seen a view from Jerusalem Farm

or from Burnsall in Wharfedale

Path between bowling greens with park-keepers mowing the grass in Todmorden, West Yorkshire

or caught sight of the beautiful bowling greens in Todmorden with hills beyond; not that bowling greens are exactly countryside!

But on this blog, Loose and Leafy in Halifax, I've so far concentrated on the town itself; for that is my immediate context - home. Perhaps now I should widen the field and introduce you to more of the wonderful and very varied countryside near at hand.

We're heading for the green deep in  a fold between the fields and moorland.
And as I do, I should also point you to Everyday Life. Lyn has been writing and posting photos about this part of England since 2009 and has been warming my heart to it ever since I first came across her blog. Our experiences and approach are very different and the reasons I moved to Halifax are broadly based on money, culture, work opportunities and a need for change. The choice of Halifax specifically was largely down to chance. So arriving here is pretty random. However the strong images of some of the country walks she has introduced us to over the years have been nudging away at me. "Cor," I've been thinking, "that's not an 'arf bad place to live!" Blogs have a lot to answer for!

In previous posts I've mentioned the Greek Village books of Sara Alexi. There are masses of them and in the same way as we have moved from Dorset to Halifax, people in the village don't necessarily stay put. In the first book (The Illegal Gardener) one of the main characters is Aaman from Pakistan who finds work re-shaping an English woman's newly acquired garden. Later, in 'Saving Septic Cyril' he and his wife travel (legally, this time) from Pakistan to England where they rent a house in a tiny village near Bradford.

Bradford is quite near Halifax. Indeed, they are linked vaguely by a sequence of fields and villages; and between the two we can look down the hill . . . beyond the sheep . .  not to to where Aaman and Saabira live (for their place is much smaller) . . . but to a village which makes me think of them. (Saabira and Aaaman are, by the way, in my mind, perfectly real people.) 

Through the village and a bit further . . . Ogden water. A fifteen minute drive from my house. What can I say in a short post? That we walked round the reservoir. That when we go back, you can come too.

(Quite a large stretch of water along the right-hand shore was frozen.)

Wherever I live, wherever I go, there are places where I like to be alone; I feel almost possessive about their isolation.

And there are places where there are so many people I can't cope and want to go home.

But here - it was such a jolly atmosphere I felt swept up in the happiness; masses of people walking beside the water before or after their Sunday lunch - and the woods ringing with laughter. There were people of all ages, little children, parents, older people; and teenage boys who were putting great efforts into shuffling awkwardly round slushy patches so they didn't get their flash trainers spoiled in the mud: people bringing Christmas trees to be re-planted or turned into dead-hedge wind-breaks. And, hurray, hurray, no cyclists! I've nearly lost friends over this cyclist issue. As a pedestrian I've had bad experiences with cyclists both in Dorset and in London. I have only one recurring nightmare and that's of hoards of cyclists bearing down on me waving their arms and shouting. It's horrible.

I've always liked the look of wind turbines - but am not yet entirely convinced they are the way forward. Having complained about cyclists I'll try not to raise your hackles further by worrying about their proliferation. Hopefully they are nothing but an early stage in the development of 'green' power and with any luck won't last long. But against a dark sky they are pretty impressive don't you think?

Thursday, 11 January 2018


I was expecting to say it was pointless planting onions in the autumn. If I'd left them in their bags they might have grown more. And while other people are talking about their little daffodils emerging there's not a sign that I've buried any anywhere. And as for shallots; they they appear to be rotting instead of growing.

I've hardly visited the allotment since before Christmas. The ground froze and I fell. Then there was snow. Now, the soil is squishy where snow-melt has been topped up with rain. But the non-growing onions, now visible, are entertaining.

Autumn planted onion set in January.

The onion above is progressing somewhat. But others are doing their own thing. To its right there's one with its roots up instead of down. How is this? Did I inadvertently put it in the wrong way? I might have done but don't think so.

Onion sets pushing themselves out of the ground.

The picture above shows how such annoying miracles are taking place. Onions are pushing themselves out of the soil and flopping about. The one on the left has lurched sideways but its roots are still in the ground; the middle one is in entirely the wrong place - plucked by a bird from further along the row and dropped here. As for the one on the right - you can clearly see the hole it has got itself out of. Its roots are still healthy and it's sprouting at the top so I tipped it gently back into place and hunched earth around it like a scarf. To the right of the right-hand onion is the footprint of a passing creature.

One of the striking differences between where I live now and more or less anywhere else I've ever lived is the absence of dogs and cats. I suppose it's because houses in my neighbourhood tend to be small and hardly any have gardens. A pleasant result is that there is hardly any dog poo on the pavements. In the summer I will be able to take deep breaths on summer's days and delight either in the scent of fresh air or of traffic fumes instead of being knocked out and disappointed by the stench of pet-excrement which is the downside of living by a well walked path beside the sea. Other allotmenteers tell me cats do come by but I doubt they cause much trouble because, judging by the streets, they are few, which is good. Dogs on the loose might crash into you, muddy pawed, but cats are less random. Whenever you plant a plant, that's where they'll choose to sit. Wherever you sow some seeds, that's where they'll dig. Turn your back on a seed tray and a spare cat will be settled in in a shot and pretend it's been there all morning. But here . . . few dogs . . . few cats . . Bliss.  But badgers?

There's something about the smell of disturbed earth. In the autumn, I put bulbs in one day and they were gone by morning. 

Ornamental onion not doing too well.

This is where I planted ornamental aliums. And this is also where they got dug up again. I'm leaving the hole. I've filled it in three times. What's the point? And I don't want to draw attention to there being any bulbs still there. The smell of disturbed earth might work like a huge speech bubble saying 'hey, you forgot these'.

Wooden bars between which carrots are supposed to grow but where grass is growing instead.

Above is where I planted carrots. (The markers show the end of rows.) But they didn't grow. I'm trying to remember whether I then planted something in the intervening slots to make up for them. Small daffodils? Shall I tug out the grass seedlings or will this attract creatures to the aliums nearby?

Raw vegetables added to compost bin.

Still . . . the compost bin is happy. One thing is going well! In the photo fresh new veg. has been added. A friend has given it a cabbage. (I would have chopped it up a bit but a gift is a gift.) Around the outside I've built a barricade of large stones and a bank of turfs. The stones are to keep the bin from blowing over and to keep out rats, the turfs are to keep worms warm. It seems to be working. No further rat disturbance and what's specially gratifying - no smell of rotting veg. You can stick your head right into the bin and breathe deeply and still think it's a pleasant day. It's not got far yet. The actual compost is only about six inches deep. But I don't think it's doing too badly for a newly established bin in winter.

So . . . back to the start . . . was it pointless to plant onion sets in the autumn? No. They may not have advanced but if they weren't there I wouldn't have been paying such careful attention to the earth around them.

Onion and red leafed plant.

The red leaf belongs to a plant which will spread if I leave it there - with a huge network of red roots - I know because I pulled masses out last year.

Onion and horse tails.

And horse-tails. See them?

Which means as well as easing the onions back into their slots, and taking others back to where they belong, I'll be removing the brilliant little plants which, if left in place, will overwhelm them.

(Amongst other things.)