Even on the greyest of days and in rain, the gorgeous rudbeckias make a cheerful splash of colour along the bowling green.

Rudbeckia Sept 2015 IMG_20150915_091737

The rudbeckia, also known as the coneflower or black-eyed-susan, belongs to the sunflower family. It has a long flowering period and the seed-heads provide an abundant feast for goldfinches in late autumn.

When flowering, the petals are a tasty treat for tiny snails:

Rudbeckia close-up IMG_20150915_085817

I’m not sure if they are visible in the photo but they are in there :)

I wonder how many people remember what the flower beds looked like before the rudbeckias were planted? As far as I can recall, there were several years when the beds were full of beautiful rich red tulips but I can’t remember anything else. Do let us know if you remember what else was there.

Working our way, slowly, through the alphabet brings us to the fun-loving F’s:-


Fergus IMG_20150324_083304

This is Fergus, a lovely Cyprus poodle – a cross between a poodle and terrier.


And Flash, a boisterous female with a keen eye for the lads.

We also have Freddie, Flossie, Frankie and another Fergus, this one a brown labrador.

Sparrowhawk attack

Sparrowhawk IMG_20150903_083418

I apologise for the lack of clarity of the photo but it was taken on a camera phone and ideally I should have been much closer.

So, this morning I was walking in the park with my dog, mulling over world affairs and the vicissitudes of life, when a commotion in the trees attracted my attention. The magpies were all in a flap, squawking and screeching like never before. They do sometimes have arguments and fights but this was something else.

I looked around and spotted a sparrowhawk in the tennis court, pecking at a pigeon. As I approached (to take a photo!) the raptor tried to fly off with its catch but didn’t get far, dropping the pigeon in the attempt. The poor pigeon tried to fly off but was unable to get off the ground due to its injuries.

I wasn’t too sure what, or indeed whether anything at all, I should do. This was after all a natural event, albeit not one I’ve witnessed before, and I know that wildlife should be left to its own devices and not interfered with. But, I felt really sorry for the pigeon and wanted to give it a chance. The alternative would be to put it out of its misery but I’m not keen on neck-wringing (sometimes tempted when witnessing moronic behaviour in the park though!).

I approached closer and the sparrowhawk tried to fly off with the pigeon one more time and then took off alone. The pigeon, by this time, looked as though it might have breathed its last as it didn’t move.I left the scene and continued with my walk and when I was on my way back could see hardly a trace of what had taken place. There were a few feathers in the corner of the tennis court and a small amount of blood – small by human standards but probably quite a lot for a pigeon. So, I think it must have died pretty quickly (at least I hope it did).

Who needs wildlife programmes or web cams when we have this on our doorstep?

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday dear Knitting Friends

Happy Birthday to you!

The Knitting friends were 4 years old on Friday 28th August and celebrated in style with a fantastic cake made by Linda.

Linda's cake IMG_20150828_101112

Yes, all of it is edible apart from the knitting needles and ribbon trim! And I can vouch for its deliciousness personally :)

It’s now traditional for the birthday to be marked by a ‘bring and share’ lunch in the pavilion. The table was laden with a variety of appetising treats from tasty trout to a beautifully arranged fruit platter. I meant to photograph the spread but got sidetracked – focussed a little too much on eating and forgot!

As for entertainment:- this was the usual mix of scintillating conversation interspersed with rather dodgy jokes, and an unexpected cabaret turn from an pesky wasp which persisted in dive-bombing onto our heads and weaving in and out of the light fittings, until a few deft flicks of pampas grass sent it out of the door. Needless to say, the conversation then turned to the feasibility and design of knitted door screens! Not a bad idea :)    And I can recommend using pampas grass as a wasp swishing tool.

The knitters are slowly adding decorative touches to the pavilion and making it look quite homely.

vases IMG_20150828_102928

The latest accoutrement is a set of vases – an ingenious design that wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy store somewhere. And, it hasn’t cost more than a few beans. The cans have been recycled, the yarn is from our donated stash (beautifully knitted up by Sheila) and the dried teasels are from the park and would have been thrown away  if we hadn’t nabbed them. Nothing is wasted!

The Knitting Friends’ main aim is to raise funds for park improvements (apart from knitting and chatting on a regular basis, of course) and to date have raised nearly £2000. Some of this has been spent in previous years on a bench and obelisks and a third project is still at the planning stage but will hopefully happen soon.

But, the group does not restrict itself solely to park related activities. In an earlier post I wrote about the WI yarn bombing in the park to which the Knitted Friends contributed. They have also knitted squares for the Freedom from Fistula big knit challenge, hats and cardis for victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, teddies and toys for local charities, blankets for baby charities, twiddlemuffs for dementia sufferers, plus several sheeps-worth of garments for family and friends, some of which have even ended up in New Zealand. A regular monthly collection of food, clothing and knitted stuff is made for the Wellspring Centre in Stockport, which supports homeless and disadvantaged people.

It’s a pretty busy group!

Newcomers and visitors are always welcome – whether to knit or chat, or just to poke a head around the door to see what all the laughter is about.

On a personal note, I would like to thank all the Knitting Friends for coming along each week, or as often as other commitments/health/interests allow, for supporting the activities of the group and most of all for making it all such great fun. And thank you for the lovely and most unexpected birthday celebration gift :)

Owls IMG_20150812_091828

The owls, tree wrappings and other decorations that the Heatons WI had installed in the park have now gone :(

But, some colourful items remain :)

Wraps IMG_20150726_094342

These wrappings (for want of a better word) are the work of the Knitting Friends and the aim is to keep them in the park for the rest of the summer. The wraps around the trees were donated to the knitting group by Carol a few years ago and were actually made by her daughter Susanna when she was little, so they are older than you might think. The method used is known as French knitting. In my day, we used wooden spools with nails we had knocked in ourselves, but these days you can buy ready-made and quite fancy dollies/bees/various characters with nails/stumps already inserted. No bruised fingers!

The railing wraps are strips of finger knitting made by one of the Knitting Friends from yarn donated to the group by Barbara, a local resident, who was a talented knitter until illness forced her to stop. If you want to know how to do finger knitting, have a look on Youtube where there are lots of demonstrations.

I like to think that this cheerful display demonstrates the ties and affection that users of the park, past and present, have for this lovely space and the community around it.

And, just in case anyone missed it, here’s a photo of an article that appeared in the Stockport Express a couple of weeks ago, following Stockport MP Ann Coffey’s  visit to the park.

Newspaper IMG_20150806_153809


Some interesting and thought provoking thoughts from Catherine, a regular reader and contributor to this blog:

Image courtesy of Pixaby

Image courtesy of Pixaby

The banning of smoking in the city’s public parks and on beaches is under active consideration at present in Brighton and Hove, where cigarette smoke is blamed for many premature deaths.  Such bans are common in the US, in cities such as Seattle and Philadelphia, and are being debated in other countries, such as Ireland and Israel.  In the UK generally, major public health experts, such as Lord Darzi, support such measures, and this has been much discussed in medical journals recently.

Lord Darzi of Derham,  was one of Gordon Brown’s GOATS.   He is an adviser to Boris Johnson, and in his moments of leisure is a highly-respected and expert surgeon at the Royal Marsden  in the field of minimally invasive surgery.  He has published extensively, is a recognised leader in his field, and a highly accomplished spokesman for the concepts of public and global health.  When Lord Darzi speaks, medics tend to listen, even if they do not always fully agree with him.   The Mayor of London made him the chair of the London Health Commission, and he has been much in the news recently for championing the idea that the capital, and by implication other cities, can be leaner, healthier and fitter.  Among several recommendations, the Commission recommends that  smoking should be banned in public parks.  By using byelaws, they believe that 40% of London can be smoke free.

The report is called “Better health for London” and can be read here.

Interestingly, the New South Wales government in Australia banned smoking in national parks on 1/1/2015; the aims were to minimise the risks of bushfires and to attempt to reduce the seven billion cigarette butts which litter the country each year, in addition to improving the nation’s health.  In 2011, the then-Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, banned smoking in all 1700 of the city’s parks.  In the UK, Glasgow will not allow smoking in children’s playgrounds, and in 2013 a “Tobacco Control strategy for Scotland” was launched.  The British Medical Journal recently published a debate on outdoor smoking bans, with excellent references to supporting evidence.   Here, Lord Darzi argues that this measure would promote behavioural change:  if one does not see others lighting up, it becomes less of a behavioural norm.

The opposite view is presented by Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney, who feels that the public health benefits of such restrictions would be negligible and unmeasurable, and that such measures in themselves are paternalistic and even totalitarian, fascist.  “If it is fine to tell smokers that they cannot be seen to smoke anywhere in public, why not extend the same reasoning to drinkers or to people wolfing down supersized orders in fast food outlets??” he asks.  Professor Chapman also voices objections to the “litter problem” which smoking creates being dressed up as a public health issue, although one could argue that smokers needlessly exacerbate opposition and revulsion by treating public spaces, such as parks, as an open ashtray in which they can throw down butts with abandon.

The tos and fros of the debate, and the discussion it has engendered, involve the extent to which it is legitimate for government to attempt to mitigate harm to the public health, and to what extent this should be left to the individual.   Some say that a ban would be “the nanny state” and exhibit a slightly prurient Puritan disapproval; others reply that a public health emergency is imminent, justifying such measures.   Is it reasonable to ban smoking in a park, whilst large vehicles spew out pollution on roads close by?  Both sides cite technical  scientific publications which are somewhat difficult for the average reader to evaluate.

A further point often raised in the debate is that any such law would be very onerous to enforce.  Mayor Bloomberg and Lord Darzi tend to regard this measure as self enforcing: rather than it being a matter of a “de jure” law being imposed by government agencies, not smoking outside would become a moral and ethical norm, a “de facto” enforcement of a socially acceptable course of action, created by groups in society itself.  It would become something that people in general simply don’t do.  No law is completely enforceable in that people often don’t get caught breaking the law;  but this is not, in itself, a justification for not having a particular law.  The law on copyright is regularly ignored; people still use their mobile phones while driving.  Should these laws be repealed, because they are regularly being flouted?

Having commissioned the  above report, the Mayor of London has not rushed to implement all  its recommendations; he has been known to smoke a cigar outdoors himself.   However, the subject is unlikely to go away.  Dedicated public health campaigners, libertarians and obsessive cacodoxians of all kinds sustain the debate: is a cigarette an inalienable human right or one of the deadliest decoctions in human history whose inhalation must be abolished?  Is there a middle way?   Smoking yields revenue and tax as well as cancers.   Is it the most pressing public health concern, or are there other noxious forms of pollution which must also be tackled?

The use of the “totalitarian” or “health fascist” argument/nomenclature is interesting.   Hitler memorably threw his fags into the Danube, and Nazi Germany promoted smoke-free public spaces.  A certain amount of extremist imagery and rhetoric often creep into the debate, with phrases such  “antismoking ayatollahs” or “health talibans” , which tend to denigrate by association.  The German Nazis also enacted extensive animal protection laws, and Hitler may have been a vegetarian.  What should we deduce from this?

There were several people smoking in the park at the weekend, seemingly oblivious to the impasse in evidence-based efforts to improve health by eliminating tobacco, and untroubled, too, by the more radical suggestions for a way forward, such as phasing out smoking by making cigarettes unobtainable to those born after a certain date, or the development of alternative measures “plain packaging”,  or  e-cigarettes.  MPs may have time on their hands to debate this, but legislation looks unlikely.  It’s unlikely too that Lord Darzi and his colleagues will cease to fight for public health.

There is an open access article on the case for abolition in the BMJ here.  Opposing views can be found at http://www.forestonline.org/.   The park is a public space, for the whole public, whether they are libertarians, fascists, dog walkers, joggers, footballers, mums with prams, ……..    Should certain activities be banned there?  What do readers think?

Last Friday, one of the magnificent beech trees in the park was cut down. It was a huge tree, around 30″ in diameter, possibly one of the oldest trees in the park. Records show that several beech trees were planted in 1910 so this was probably one of those.

Its position, on a mound, gave it a fabulous commanding aspect overlooking the clover leaf field. And the leaves in autumn were simply stunning. But, three to four years ago it started to die off; the leaf growth declined and what was there started to drop earlier each year.This year no leaves were formed at all and the tree expert from SMBC declared it to be dead.

This photo was taken in May – the beech tree is on the left and you can see that the branches are bare. It should have looked like the beech tree on the right.

Beech 1 IMG_20150510_091701

And so, on Friday, tree surgeons got to work and we saw it going:

Beech 2 IMG_20150730_135432


Beech 3 IMG_20150731_094537


Beech gone IMG_20150802_090806

But, all is not lost! The tree trunk remains and will be a welcome place for wildlife for many years to come.

Beech seat IMG_20150801_092412

The flattened section looks very inviting :)  Bird table perhaps?


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