Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Wild World of the Garden

When we first moved west from the southernmost suburbs of greater London to our house in Gloucestershire, we almost immediately had two very unexpected visitors.  Although we had lived for some years on the edge of the countryside, it was a manicured countryside. I was now in the 'real' country, and awaited with glee a Snow White type existence from then on.  It didn't turn out like quite that, but over the years we have probably seen more wildlife in our garden or in the field over the wall, than we would if we'd stayed in Surrey. And I love it.

Tom and nosy pigeon (or is it a dove?)

I came upon our first visitor 'strolling' down the sideway towards our back door. I looked at him, he looked at me ... and kept on coming. Leaving the door open I retreated back into the house just to see what would happen.  I hardly expected the dove / pigeon to come in, but a few hops later and there he was in the kitchen: 'So, this is what the inside of a house looks like!' he seemed to be thinking. I kept still and he made his way, in calm and leisurely fashion, out of the kitchen, via the hall, into the sitting room where I managed to immortalise the moment. In the resulting shot, my son, Tom (Thomas Williams - now grown up and the author of Viking Britain!), looks more wary than enchanted. Our visitor had a good look around then, seemingly satisfied, retraced his hops back through the kitchen and out of the house.

It was very shortly after this incident that I had another close encounter, but this time with a rather more exotic member of the ornithological family. I looked out of the window one day only to see a very odd looking, and very large polka-dotted black bird standing on the wall between us and the farmer's field behind us.  And when I say 'very large', I mean very very.  It was getting on for the size of a peacock to which the  guinea fowl  is related, I later discovered, when I identified it.

Pheasants in the garden

Another unusual siting, was made by my husband and at first I thought he was either drunk or teasing me. It wasn't a buzzard, the largest bird we commonly see circling over the valley. He'd spotted a bald eagle!  I was just in time to see it and agree with his identification.  It turned out to be an escapee from a bird sanctuary many miles to the north of us. It was later caught and returned home.

We hear more than see the pheasants, their clacketty gobbling call is unmistakable,  but they do sometimes pay us a personal visit.

The first time I saw it in the middle of our lawn I thought the big green bird with a red head  must be a parrot! Sadly the green woodpecker is not a common sight in the garden. Slightly less uncommon, but still not frequent visitor is its cousin the lesser-spotted woodpecker.  Torn between the desire to photograph them and the fear they'll fly off before I return with my camera, I usually just stand at the window and watch - so the pics above are stock.

It's always exciting to spot a jay, that flash of iridescent electric blue contrasting with the soft pinky buff  plumage is an instant giveaway, but they're there and then they're gone.

We have most of the usual garden birds, blackbirds, dunnocks, robins, wrens, all of the tits and finches, but very few sparrows and no starlings, and the numbers of thrushes have diminished over the years. When we first moved here, even when I couldn't see them, I could hear them singing or bashing the living daylights out of a poor snail (and no, I don't use slug bait), but now there are far fewer.  I am always very happy to see them.

Bull Finch on the feeder

Blue Tit on the fat balls.
Dunnock posing on the old chimney pot we use as a planter

My favourite - the long-tail tit
- they usually arrive mob-handed
Nuthatch - looking like a little bandit

Jackdaw - they always look mean to me.

We hear tawny owls but I've only once seen one here, swooping low past the window in the gloaming......

I could go on and on ... and on ... about birds but I think it's time I moved on to mammals.

And first, perhaps, I should mention the very cheeky visitor who has no compunction about stealing the birds' food, even when he knows we're watching.

Impossible for a very amateur photographer to capture the bats who regularly swoop around the house on a summer evening. Like some of the others in this post, this  fabulous picture is not mine.

Unlike the bats, badgers are very rarely seen. You have to get up from your bed if you think you've heard them.  But even then, it's usually so dark they look like no more than fat black cushions shuffling around the night garden.  They leave the evidence of their depredations, however - churning up the lawn to look for grubs and several times, virtually destroying the bird feeder to get at its tempting contents.

We found a hedgehog once, apparently considering a small space between the gnarled trunk of an old rose bush and the ivy covered wall behind it, to build a nest. After finding herself being peered at, she apparently decided the spot was too public; we don't know where she went.  Over the years we have found hedgehog droppings, but I guess we are like so many places, the population has dropped off. But we do make sure the garden is hedgehog friendly (in other words - neglected in parts).

Owned by Rebecca Charley and Richard Spyvee, the management of the farm in the valley behind us is kept as natural as possible, without the use of sprays and chemicals. In fact, the farmer, Rebecca, is the south west farming adviser to the National Trust and is a multiple award winner for her small herd of Red Poll cattle. Rebecca has appeared on BBC TVs Country File describing the management of these lovely animals. They enjoy a peripatetic life style  to insure a variety in their diet, and they are grazed at various locations around here, so they are only in the field behind us intermittently. But we love it when they are there - we always refer to them as 'our cows' - and enjoy giving them apples and ivy, which they love. 

My sister communing with one of 'our cows'
One of the few horses who's deigned
 to respond to our blandishments

That field beyond out garden wall is steep in parts and boggy in others, with a tendency to become overgrown with bramble. Horses are also kept there from time to time, but they can be be a bit snooty. Otherwise it is empty apart from the foxes and rabbits, and the occasional worker, clearing the overgrowth with a very clever, radio-controlled 'bramble digger-upper'.
A baby rabbit who'd wandered and turned up in our garage

When we first lived here, we never saw any deer.  But over the last few years there's been an increasing population, mainly of roe deer. Indeed, over the last six months the deer have apparently decided 'the grass is greener' and we've caught them trespassing in our garden on several occasions.So far it's not been a problem, but I'm slightly concerned how much more tasty out garden will look to them in the summer.

Sadly, the spawn in the pond has dwindled over the years. Even when we've had tadpoles, they've vanished before metamorphosis. No fish but we do see newts, frogs - and toads, hiding in damp corners.

A visitor to the pond, on the look out for easy pickings, is the heron.

And last but not least, the beautiful slow worm, curled in the sun, looking like some extraordinary piece of Viking jewellery.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. 
Jenny Kane
Grace’s love of her medieval hero is so strong that, instead of writing a textbook on medieval life as her boss believes, Grace is secretly writing a novel about a fourteenth century potter’s daughter called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (A story you can also read alongside the modern romance.) Unfortunately, Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. This is a situation that her best friend, Daisy, is determined to put right. With her wedding  approaching fast, Daisy can’t help wishing for a similar happiness for her Robin Hood loving friend...

An Unexpected Wedding

When you’re in love with a man of legend,how can anyone else match up? Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a teenager. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History—but Grace is stuck in a rut. 

Grace is supposed to be writing a textbook 
on a real-life medieval criminal gang—the Folvilles—but instead she is captivated by a novel she’s secretly writing.
A medieval mystery which entwines the story of Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood—and a feisty young woman named Mathilda of Twyford. Just as she is trying to work out how Mathilda can survive being kidnapped by the Folvilles, Grace’s best friend Daisy announces she is getting married. After a whirlwind romance with a man she loves as muchas the creatures in her animal shelter, Daisy has press-ganged Grace into being her bridesmaid. 

Witnessing Daisy’s new-found happiness, Grace starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? Grace’s life doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks—a rival academic who she is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to… If only he didn’t know quite so much about Robin Hood. Suddenly, spending more time living in the past than the present doesn’t seem such a good idea...

Extract  from 

...Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.
She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.
It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.
She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.
Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.
Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’
The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.
‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’
As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’
It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?
Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.
‘Hi, Marcus.’
‘Hi honey, you OK?’
‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’
Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’
‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’
‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’
Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’
‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’
Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’
‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’
‘Oh cute – ta.’
‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’
As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there...


Brilliant! Sounds a great read.  Thank you for visiting my blog, Jenny, and telling us all about your book. Who hasn't become a little too caught up in daydreams and wishful thinking?  My own favourite Robin Hood was Michael Praed.  Good luck with the rest of your book tour.