Monday, 28 January 2013


RSPB Garden Birdwatch

This is a regular January event in our household.  It’s a really good family nature activity.  I’m talking about the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.  A nationwide event where you count the largest groups of birds in your garden and submit them to the RSPB so they can find out what is happening to our garden bird population.   My son is very familiar with bird watching so it was easy to get him to participate.  The binoculars are always part of our holiday luggage and go with us on most family walks.  He’s been a  junior RSPB member, with the great name of Wildlife Explorer, for a couple of years.  The magazines, sent quarterly, are brilliant and geared to specific age range and about all UK nature and animals, not just birds.  As well as free entry to RSPB reserves he gets free entry to the Wildfowl and Wetland Centres.

This year with snow and cold temperatures around it was likely that different, perhaps more unusual birds would be seen.  We prepared carefully and brought new stock of bird seed for the feeders. Saturday’s Telegraph featured the Birdwatch so that was brought in addition to our usual Saturday newspaper,  Birds seem to feed more in the morning, especially on a winter’s day so after a little lie in on Sunday and quick breakfast, but without getting dressed we started. Our feeders are visible from the back of the house in the past we just have watched them and always done the birdwatch from indoors.
bird Feeders

Well the birds weren’t playing ball this weekend.  Not a sign of one on the feeders and nothing scrambling around in the flower beds – one of their favourite locations.

Frustrations grew.  ‘Where are all the birds mummy’?’  ‘This bird watching is stupid’ says my son.  There was nothing for it, surely the whole area could not be devoid of birds.  There are always birds in our garden.  We are always seeing them and hearing then.  Sound – that was the clue.  You can usually hear, but not always see them.  But that song, call and coo can lead you to them.  So out we went in pyjamas and dressing gowns.  Yes, we were going to be that mad family next door.
And so we were.  Yet it worked.  Stepping outside the back door we were met with numerous bird sounds.  Our list gradually became longer.  Not that it is a competition, but with an 8 yr old some length and variety on the list does help.  We did not see any large groupings of bird, the flocks of field fares certainly did not appear to have reached us.

2 crows, 1 Greenfinch, 1 robin singing its heart out, 2 starling, 2 pigeons, 1 sparrow, 1 blackbird and the best of best , 1 green woodpecker and 1 greater spotted woodpecker.
One last stage and that was to submit the information online. This year the RSPB have thoughtfully provided a certificate to, say that the children have taken part.  Its been placed next to my son's bed this evening.

Move outside and a whole world awaits.  Next year we will get dressed.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A White Weekend

sledging in Richmond Park

For once the snow was perfectly timed.  It started after 9.00am on Friday and continued throughout the day.  Those of you with school age children will know the significance of 9 o 'clock. It meant that the school was open on Friday.  The school did, in fact, ask for children to be picked up early so that those staff with long journeys could arrive home safely.  So the weekend started early for my son and many others.  Fantastic -  we were able to spend it in the local playground sampling the delights of the first snow of the year. 

Snow ball fights and sledging were on the agenda.  Yesterday there was a BBC programme highlighting the 60th anniversary of the great winter of 1963.  It included footage of children sledging and snowballing.  Really good to see that some things have not changes in the all that time.

On Friday we also attempted to build a snowman, but for some reason the snow was not sticky enough. Perhaps it needs a night on the ground to settle in. Usually when it snows in London it very quickly does a disappearing trick - often it simply does not live up to expectations.  So the pressure is on to get and and enjoy as quick as possible.  This weekend knowing that more snow was forecast meant we could wander out, as and when, we wanted.  No pressure.



Saturday turned out to be a snowman day.  Actually it is a snow penguin.  Now comes my admission of parent fail. My son has just turned eight and we had never built a snowman with him.  OK I have an excuse for the first couple of years of his life as there was no snow.  Not sure how this happened, but it is all now rectified.  Snowman with organic carrot duly built in the  local park on Saturday.

richmond park in the snow

Sunday we had light snow all day.  We all trotted off to Richmond Park with the sledge, or shield if you are using it to protect yourself in a snowball fight.  The runs near the entrances to the Park were busy.  However if you, like we did, wandered into the Park just a little the people thinned out and you had you own winter wonderland. Perfection.  I even managed to take some shots of the deer.

Deer in snow in Richmond Park

If ever there was a winter weekend to get outside and play it was this weekend.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Snowdrop Gardens

Are you one of the lucky people who has snowdrops in their garden?  They are justifiably popular and well deserve the accolade as one of the first signs of spring.  It lifts ones spirits to see them flowering right now.


I have a couple of very large clumps with extremely bulbous flower heads in my garden.  They were planted by the previous owner, so I do not know the variety.  They also flower late and bloom well into late March.  This means that by the time the clumps are ready to divide it is April.  And it is division that they are in desperate need of.  That, and the fact that they are so beautiful, that I would like to create quite a few more clumps.   April is such a busy time in the garden that I never seem to move onto to this task.


So this year when they started peeping their heads above the ground I decided to defy the experts advice.  I would not wait until the bulbs had stopped flowering before I divided the clump, but would try to split now, quickly whilst the soil was not frozen. Armed with  a large fork and long handled fork I dug down.  Not an easy task as the bulbs were well over 12 inches into the soil.  4 bulbs were prised out of the ground. Unfortunately the stems also came off two of them.

snowdrop bulbs
snowdrops replanted

I replanted the 4 bulbs.  I think it is unlikely that the two still with stme will flower this year, but you never know.  Hopefully all four will flower next year.  So my task was accomplished.  If you are trying this next year it would perhaps be easier with smaller snowdrop bulbs not planted quite so deep.  Dividing the clumps with still be on my list of gardening tasks this April.

drift of snowdrops

If you like to see large drifts of snowdrops then there is bound to be a open snowdrop garden close to you.  My favourite site for finding one is National Gardens Scheme's Snowdrop Garden Openings.  Openings usually take place in early to mid February.  Half term fits neatly into this period so the children can get to see them as well.

If, like me, you live close to London the Chelsea Physic Garden has Snowdrop Days from 2 to 10th February.  Thats where I'll be visiting.  Hope you manage to visit one as well.

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Three years ago it had been snowing in London.  I know that because I mentioned it in my very first, rather short, post on Out2playinthegarden.  Well it has been a great three years.  Happy birthday Out2playinthegarden.
I have had so much pleasure in blogging about playing outside and gardening with my son and family.  The feedback and comments I have received have really helped me to follow the mantra ‘Growing gardens helps to grow your kids’.

Painted pots and painted stones

Looking back over the 3 years the two most popular posts in terms of visitor numbers are Kids Garden Activities: Painting Pots, Bunches of Herbs and the Odd Decorated Pebble and How Green is my Garden?

Painting pots and pebbles are timeless and ageless activities.  The post covered how to make those lovely creations found in the photo collage above. You can never have too many of them and you and the children, whatever their ages, will always have fun designing and creating them.  Recently I have come across chalk-based paint which I have used to repaint some bedroom furniture.  I think it may also have great potential outdoors so I am looking forward with experimenting with some outdoor painting this spring.

The green leaf game

The green leaf game featured in How Green is my Garden is so simple and easy.  I now have a collection of numerous colour charts covering the whole rainbow and we often take one out on a walk so we can do a quick colour and shade treasure hunt.

Last year an outing to a local bluebell wood proved to be a popular post.  It was a day my son spent with his cousins.  The weather was just beginning to warm up – so much so the children had their coats off for part of the walk.  It was a day for outdoor activity and very happy family memories in which the bluebell wood provided the most perfect natural setting.
A night time visit to an enchanted woodland at Syon Park in Isleworth was the 2012 post that received the most visitors.  Darkness, light, reflection, shadow and shape all do give a garden very different perspective and this garden really did provide some very different experiences.  It made me realise that perhaps there is potential for some small night time changes in my own garden.  We also tuck ourselves away on early winter evenings when perhaps a walk or stroll to a local park or river (if safe) would help us to keep in touch with our local environment.
So I raise my glass to the next 3 years.  Here’s to keep playing with my friends and family in the garden and the great outdoors.
We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.--
George Bernard Shaw


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