Sunday 24 February 2013

"Leaf it out..."

The rose on my plot is not just in bud, but in leaf...

Stoke enters garden in Chelsea Flower Show

Stoke-on-Trent City Council's landscape team is entering the Chelsea Flower Show with a major garden evoking Stoke-on-Trent...

"Staffordshire University graduate Nigel Matthews was commissioned by Stoke's British Ceramics Biennial to design and make a ceramic feature to be used in the show garden which includes a six-foot run of ceramic flowers."

There will also be a central bottle-kiln shaped greenhouse. Sponsors include Johnson Tiles, The Trentham Estate, and Bartholomew Landscaping.

Not quite sure what the little guy in the bottom of the picture is doing. Braining himself with a trowel? :)

Saturday 23 February 2013

Sense-ible animals

There's some amazing new research on just what common animals can sense. Bees sense the electric field of flowers. Pigeons can hear the sea, even deep inland, and use it to navigate. Specifically, the infrasound generated by the continual crashing of billions of ocean waves.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Stoke Minster History Day

Minster History Day at Stoke town's church minster, in the town below my allotment. Saturday 9th March 2013 (11am – 3.30pm). Free.

Talks & Displays:

11am: Stoke’s Ancient History.
12pm: The Living Legacy of St Chad (book launch).
1pm: What’s an Urban Minster?
  Display & short walk at 1.30pm.
2pm: The Staffordshire Hoard.
3pm: The Lands of St Chad.

+ fun kids' activities, food and drinks.

Full PDF flyer here.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Flello gets a bee in his bonnet

Labour M.P. for Stoke-on-Trent and Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello today tries to use his token support for a Friends of the Earth save-the-bees campaign, to decontaminate himself in the local media. This cynical move comes shortly after his vote in the Commons against gay marriage. He also spoke in the debates, when he said he had no evidence that anyone in his constituency supported gay marriage. Thereby tacitly confirming the nation's misguided belief that Stokies are all a bunch of bigots. Given Labour's consistent authoritarian streak, it doesn't bode well for a life under a future Labour government that its potential Justice Minister has hardline attitudes like this.

[Creative Commons picture of bonking bees by Pigpogm].

Friday 8 February 2013

25th day on the plot - hoe, hoe, hoe

Weather: 5 degrees, bitterly cold NW wind.

Back up at the plot, after just over a month away. I spent an hour and a half giving a really thorough hoe to my two cleared lower sections...

The plot rents are now due, too. £30 a year for these three sections and half of the top "garden" bit. Where I've found found four nice patches of early rhubarb coming through already...

My first real crop! I've emptied two black buckets of their rainwater and placed them (with brick on top) over the most vigorous rhubarb, to "force" some early sticks. I'll need to carefully weed a circle around each patch at some point, or they'll get swamped again.

Not sure if I should get a rope and tie back the currants up at the back of the plot's top "garden", or prune them right back. They were racing away from the hedge until I cut it back, and have grown all lopsided. I'll have to consult a gardening book on how and when to cut currants — I'm thinking it might be too near the Spring to do it now.

Got a nice crop of mushrooms on the small tree that's growing up the side of the shed. Possibly edible, I think most bracket fungi are, but I'm not going to risk it...

And some lovely lichens on the apple tree tips, showing how clean the air is up here...

That'll probably be it at the plot for another week — as the weather looks set to be foul over the weekend and into next week, plus a return to slight frosts.

Next up is sorting out a seed order, in about a week, when I should have enough in the PayPal to justify spending £20 of it.

Sunday 3 February 2013

The future of Stoke town

My allotment plot sits perched above Stoke town, the original town in the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Currently the town is home to the City Council's main Civic Centre with all its workers, but there are serious plans underway to move this up into Hanley, seemingly purely in order to underpin city-centre trade.

At the same time, Staffordshire University's Stafford campus is being serious considered for eventual removal to the Stoke-on-Trent campus, bringing a welcome "3,400 students and 455 members of staff" to the city.

But I was wondering... where exactly will all these people fit? Would the University flatten some of the Shelton terrace houses and/or take a chunk of Hanley Park? Unlikely. Expand toward the river, perhaps onto the big allotments site there? Unlikely, again. It's floodplain.

Then it struck me — the logical place would be in the Council's huge vacated Civic Centre in Stoke town, connected to the current campus with the long-awaited and vital new pedestrian bridge across the A500 and canal. Very little additional new-build building would be required.

While the move of the Civic Centre up to Hanley seems unlikely to have the promised wider benefits for city-centre trade (other than for Tesco), it could actually be good for Stoke town — if it allows the University to consolidate and open up the town to the main campus and intercity train station via a major new bridge. It'd certainly be good to have creative degree courses like Videogame Design in the city, and having the engineering and computing side of the Uni up here would also give a big boost to the new Science Centre aspect of the Stoke campus. Spode, next to the Civic Centre, could benefit by becoming artists' and industrial design studios, alongside a heritage site run by Heritage Management students. The town's terraces and local flats would benefit in terms of house prices. The town's fine pubs would continue to do a good trade, albeit aimed more at students than Council officers.