Winter walk through south-east Sheffield’s parks

Yesterday I walked from our nearest Sheffield park (Norfolk Park) to Ecclesall Woods, visiting as many green spaces as I could on the way. From what @helenintgarden told me on Twitter, it turns out I ended up doing a large fraction of the Sheffield round walk (signs for which I did occasionally see.)

Some parts of the walk were more picturesque than others, but throughout it was emblematic of the most pleasant this time of year can provide: the combination of austere sparseness, oases of green shoots and evergreen leafiness; the leaf mould covering the floors of bosky-smelling lums; the bright if brittle winter sun low in the sky throughout.

Here’s a few photos I took as I walked, that I hope are evocative enough.

Norfolk Park, Jervis Lum, Park Grange Road and Black Bank

Norfolk Park has beautiful views over the city, and Park Grange Road beautiful views of the city and the trams. As it’s my local haunt, I can’t think of much more to say than the photographs can:


Gleadless Valley

Through ivied woods, ascending up towards Backmoor and the school. Like a lot of the green spaces, I get the feeling it used to be an industrial site, and some of the excavations had been the removal of contaminated earth. When it was beautiful, though, it was very much so:


Graves Park and Chancet Wood

Past the park pavilion and along the top of the ravine between park and Chesterfield Road, then descending a little to Meadowhead and past Chancet Wood:


Beauchief’s woods

After a coffee at Cello’s on Westwick Crescent, following the crescent up to the entrance to Old Park Wood; then down through the Beauchief and Abbey golf courses, past Gulleys Wood and Ladies Spring Wood:


Beauchief Abbey

This abbey, ruined by the Dissolution, had been built during Archbishop Thomas (a) Becket’s lifetime, and dedicated to him after his murder. It still held services, and also held some of its old beauty in imagined walls and empty once-rooms:


Ecclesall Woods and home along the Sheaf

Along Abbey Lane, then round the back of the estate into Ecclesall Wood, for a tour around the bird sanctuary and a quick visit to the gravestone of woodcollier George Yardley before heading back home along the Sheaf View walk:


And that’s all I have: unfortunately, the rat I saw by Tesco on the way home didn’t pause long enough for a photograph.


End of year review 2016: out of the frost came forth sweetness

Apart from a few tweets I’ve barely posted anything during December. I’ve needed some time this month to rest, and to wrap up a few work-related things, and also to try to enjoy the Christmas season. This time last year we’d only just moved, and despite being one of the most Christmassy people I know, I’d missed out on the celebrations, and felt it.

This winter, however, I have a hankering to review the garden during this, the turn of the year. Since Christmas, hard frosts have fallen on Sheffield:


Frosts thick as light snowfall; frosts with imprints in them; frosts not melting all day if the weak, low, daytime sun cannot reach them.

Layout and landscaping

To get some idea of which parts of the back garden are worst hit, I’ve taken another in my occasional series of almost indecipherable photos out of the back window:


Reflections of the curtains aside, you can probably see that the compost corner is frosted, despite being quite a slope. I would expect frosts to form where cold air could sit, but—possibly because the house leaks heat—the lowest point of the patio is entirely unfrosted, despite being walled on three sides. The backdoor decking is also unfrosted, unlike its raised equivalent:


Only a little later in the day, some of the garden does get sunshine:


Making it difficult to work out precisely why the back left corner is unfrosted: is that just this morning’s sun at work? Or does that southwest-facing corner keep heat from night to night:


Here, where the compost bins used to be, is the site for one of the new walls, which I will need to start digging in late winter so I can plant out in mid-spring. All is still in flux, and all provisional; but it’s interesting and somewhat heartening to see the future site of raised beds and greenhouse both, entirely free of frost by mid-morning.

Trees and woody shrubs

Woody structures remain, where I’ve not cut them down yet. There’s the euonymous I’d hacked back, much more visible since the privet has been removed:


I’d thought to hang the bird feeder there, where birds could eat without being seen by the several local cats including our own. But it seems the birds can’t see the nuts either, so I’m about to move it to the acer at the other end (invisible in the photo above, with the glare of the rare sunlight on the back fence.)

Closer up, it’s clear that the acer, so lovely this past year is clearly coming into bud:


I’m in two minds as to whether to hack it back or not. It’s been a lovely tree, but one day I will have to either move it or remove it; as I’ve been told that acers can survive coppicing, maybe I should do that sooner rather than later.

I’ve hacked back the buddleia in two stages, the same as last year:


It’s likely to come back just fine, as it usually survives ill treatment far better than the ill-fated cuttings I took from it. Another candidate to move at some point this next year, but I imagine it will fare much better than the acer.

Flowering, or not

Despite our continuation of the previous owners’ neglect of it, the winter-flowering jasmine is still trying its darnedest to put on a few flowers:


This makes me more determined to move it somewhere more amenable to its health, next season. In comparison, my row of hardy perennial pots (most from this year’s RHS Malvern is largely dormant:


The foliage on Tiarella “Sugar and Spice” and Stipa tenuissima is still hanging in there, but other than that there’s little sign of life.

The autumn-planted pea “Latvian” is surviving remarkably well:


This is despite the row of pots being blown over a few times, most recently by Storm Barbara.

The clearing of the privet and most of the brambles behind the shed has revealed this mystery little plant:


And, despite the weather, and the season, and the darkness, the zonal pelargoniums are still completely earning their keep:


I know some people find them a bit brash—is there a DIY shop that doesn’t stock them every spring?—but they flower some nine months of the year and are very undemanding plants. If we need space-fillers while some of the landscaping work goes on, I’ll definitely pick at least a few of these.

New shoots

Bulbs are shooting all over the place. There are crocus and something else peeping out from under viola in planters around the front:


Different planters have different mixes in them, based on the bulb selection I used last year, but I don’t think I’ve mixed crocus with iris, so I think that stray shoot must be something else.

In other planters, there’s evidence that something eating the shoots:


Which I hope the frost will deter. More crocuses are evident around the Welsh rose’s present from Gwenfar, Lavender “Fathead”:


And in the re-sited growframe, on the upper decking to keep it out of the way of landscaping, weighted and tied down to prevent the storms from knocking it over, are some speciality bulbs:


From left to right: Galanthus “Ophelia”, Iris “Purple gem”, some kind of Scilla, and Iris “Katharine Hodgkin”.

Fingers crossed they escape being nibbled, like they were last year; fingers crossed, indeed, that we all—the bulbs, the acer, the landscaping and me—have a more exciting but less nibbled new year.

Compost bin moved out of the way of the new retaining wall

After finishing levelling the terracing at the top-right corner, I needed a way of lifting a few hundred litres of compost up about a metre or so, into the new bin.

It turns out (from Twitter feedback) that the first scaffolding company I rang was offering me a great deal on 4-metre boards, so I got eight delivered:


I was hoping that, with the help of these, I’d be able to clear out the existing brick bins:


So I put a couple of the boards up the slope, leading up to the new bin, with only support at either end:


Unfortunately they were springier than I’d expected. I didn’t really trust my weight, plus a barrowload, on the boards at the same time. Also, on the day I picked, the frost had left the ground a weird mix of slippery mud on top of ice-crystal slush, meaning that even with the boards things weren’t as stable as I’d hoped. But the long one across the top was useful for getting a bit of extra height with the later barrowloads.

Anyway, I still got to work, and while it took a good two hours, and maybe twenty barrowloads, it’s now all in the new bin:


The new bin is pretty good, although the compost is already so broken down that it’s really finding its own heap slope, spilling out of the front and sides a bit. I might put something against the front in the future, we’ll see.

Nonetheless, this job now leaves the old bins empty and ready to be dismantled:


I’m hoping there won’t be too much mortaring to crack, but the bricks do go down further than I was expecting. But that’s another day’s job to do it, once my back’s recovered.