Derek – Saturday 10th December 2022

It’s been very cold the last few days, no rain, with temperatures close to zero and a few degrees below overnight. There’s ice on the pond and on the trays we have left out for birds. Meteorological winter began on 1st December; we were spoilt with warmer days in November. Now we are at seasonal temperatures. They are calling the chill the Troll from Trondheim. Except Trondheim is a lot colder and over winter they don’t say ‘minus’ but simply, 15 say, which might be confusing, but not if you are swaddled in hood and thick coat and still feeling cold.

I went to the UP Garden for their Wintertide event on Sunday 4 December. The garden is in the north of the borough, in spitting distance of Waltham Forest. The garden has terraced housing on three sides and council flats on the other. Three quarters of the space is tarmacked, leftover from former usage. The other quarter is grass with wild flowers. It’s twice the size of the community garden. There are around 30 raised beds, and they have utilised tyres as well, painted in bright colours, for plants. There are plenty of tables here and there, and a long mural telling us: The only way is Up! For water, they have a large vessel, at least 2 cubic metres in volume, connected to the downpipe of the council flats. They have a couple of metre cubes too, filled I suspect from the large vessel.

At Wintertide, there were lots of children’s activities: modelling, painting, searching for letters about the garden, and banging in nails to hold Christmas symbols like stars and Xmas trees. Local singer Xine did a set consisting of French chansons, arias, and classical songs. I admired her fortitude in the cold, as well as the session. Then the Foresters, a local band with 7 members, three guitars, a drummer, keyboards and vocalists. A ground floor flat gave them electricity for the session. The band began with Christmas songs and then folk, blues and pop for the rest. The volume brought in many from the neighbourhood.

I especially noted the water and electricity that came from the flats. We have flats as neighbours too, but haven’t been able to make contact because the estate is like a fortress with its high fences and no public access. We need some friends there.

Unlike us, they are open every day without hosts. But with all the housing around, the site is less likely to be vandalised than we would be. It will be interesting to see how this works out in the longer term.

A regular visitor to our garden is a mynah bird. It’s tamer than other birds and we are intrigued by it. Are we getting the same one, an escapee, or is there more than one? They are in the starling family; our visitor is a common mynah. A little research tells me the bird is unwelcome in many warmer countries where it is regarded as a pest for eating food crops and attacking other birds. In Queensland, Australia, some were released to attack insects. They did the job, but didn’t stick to insects, and are now regarded as an invasive species. One mynah – fine, let it sing its heart out or you could teach it to speak. But no more than one, or you may end up with flocks, no longer a curiosity but a pest.

Other birds I see are collared doves, very like pigeons but lighter and smaller, pigeons, a robin and a blue tit.

There’s an abutilon shrub near the children’s book shed, a little tattered but still in bloom. When first planted I thought it was a maple because of its leaves, but its characteristic flowers put me right. Our sycamore, the biggest tree we have, is winter bare, although the silver birch has half its leaves still, all of them yellow and scattered below like confetti. They are difficult to rake up, but do we need to, being so small?


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