Today was a fine spring day and we were looking forward to our walk in the park. Meg and I had breakfasted relatively early so we were in plenty of time this morning. When we arrive at the park, we enter not by the main entrance but in a small side entrance that runs alongside the local Girl Guides clubhouse. Then we normally have to cross a rough area of grassland for a hundred metres or so before we join one of the main paths around the lake. But yesterday, the park groundsmen had lowered the normal cutting height of their mowers by about a half and then specially cut two ‘paths’ across the grass, one direct and the other more curving. This seemed to be a brilliantly simple idea as many people (principally dog walkers) as well as ourselves use this top entrance and I thought that a path was long overdue. But now this broad access strip has been mown, psychologically it is easy to walk along it and, in the fullness of time, this path will remain a green path but will no doubt make itself under the pressure of many feet (and some paws). We noticed one of the groundstaff working on his tractor nearby, the tractor pulling some wide cutting units. We mentioned to him to pass on to his superervisors what a thoughtful and intelligent thing the staff had done for regular park users. The groundman explained to us it was part of a conservation unit to encourage people on some parts but bees and flora and fauna in the remaining parts. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that the Massey Ferguson he was driving was manufactured in France whilst the grasscutting units were imported from New Zealand at a price of £18,000 per unit whereas the British equivalent would cost in the order of £30,000. So we then continued with our walk and had our coffee but hoped we make contact with our University of Birmingham friend but it was not to be, even though we made a detour on the way home hoping that he and our friend might be having a coffee in the park’s own café. Meg and I needed to get home and have lunch because we have some trademen calling around at 1.30pm. As we walked home yesterday, we noticed a specialised form that was cleaning the drive (and the roof) of one of the nicest houses on the other side of Kidderminster Road. We asked one of the workers for a leaflet which they gave us and we also made arrangements for them to call around to our house and give is a quote today. But despite having lunched, got washed up and were generally well prepared, the firm did not show up. So I had a quick read of the newspaper and then made a weekly start of the weekly mowing. I use my extremely light hand mower to do all of the lawn edges (a task taking me some six minutes) and then the main mowing.
After all of this had been completed and refreshments had been taken, Meg and I went to our local Morrisons where they have a little mini-garden centre just outsde the store. We needed to buy a couple of potted plants to take up to our relatives in Bolton in two days time and we also wanted to buy some clematis plants for ourselves. This we succeeded in doing although the clematis plants on offer were quite small (albeit cheap) but climbers ought to grow quickly if we get them into their position early and we have a spell of warm, alternating with wet, weather which seems to the the weather forecast anyway. Traditionally, I always liked to grow parsnip and although this is not a ‘difficult’ plant to grow, the seed needs to be this years and there is quite a long germination period. But I have seen some internet tips how to speed up germination, one from Alan Titchmarsh no less, which involves mixing some parsnip seeds in some potting compost and then keeping the bag with the mixture in the airing cupboard for a few days. Well, it is worth a try anyway. If and when the seeds have germinated, I am trying a novel experiment to get them growing to a certain size and then planting out. This involves taking a toilet roll inner, making a cone-shaped base from the relevant part of an egg box, filling with seed compost and then priming with seeds. When (if) they get going, then the whole tube is to be planted and obviously the cardboard tube will rot away and you should get long, straight parsnip roots as the developing roots will find the easiest way to exit i.e. through the bottom. I am going to give it a try anyway – this has the advantage of not having to thin the young parsnip plants so the ‘tubes’ can be planted at the optimum distance some 10″-12″ apart.