Today, the weather feels quite mild and Aideen is keen to go outside, but I’m wary of the job she has in mind…for the last few years I have engaged in a vanguard action against an invading foe.
Alongside the lower kitchen garden wall, that divides us from Park Lodge Farm fields, is an extensive clump of brambles, probably about 20/30m long. This bramble patch has been expanding in size year on year and it sends exploratory branches over the wall. I have a grudging admiration for brambles, it must be one of the most successful plants on the planet. Firstly, its growth rate is phenomenal, secondly, its defensive thorns are very off putting and lastly, it has such an ingenious way of colonising an area. The prickly branches that head over our wall grow rapidly and when they reach the ground, they quickly root into the soil and anchor themselves firmly. If you do not get to them quickly, you will soon have a whole new bramble bush! Over the last few years I’ve been uprooting these scouting branches, sometimes throwing them back over the wall where they’ve come from! But today, encouraged by Aideen, it was time to deal with the root of the problem. We headed off into the field armed with two pairs of shears, some long handled loppers and some secateurs (not my beautiful new ones!), both wearing two pairs of gloves! On arrival at the wall, it was clear that we had two problems, brambles and ivy. Aideen is very conscious of the dangers of ivy to an ancient historic wall. Ivy was responsible for taking off the top of this entire wall shortly after we acquired Church Gardens. This was because the ivy had grown to such bushy extents along the top of the wall, when there was a strong wind, it blew the ivy off the wall, taking the bricks with it! We have now restored this wall and Aideen was determined to keep any opportunistic ivy under control so she started snipping away with the secateurs. I looked at the impenetrable thicket of brambles with some trepidation and then lunged in with my shears. I then spent a horrible, difficult, unpleasant and exhausting couple of hours hacking away at this monstrous jungle of brambles. I was soon boiling hot, but I didn’t want to take my jacket off and lose its protection against the thorns. My plan was to cut back anything heading for the wall, push back the bulk of the bush away from the wall and then go back along the wall chopping the stems closest to the wall down to the ground. It really was a battle and on several occasions, the thorny branches latched onto me so firmly that I became stuck and had to call Aideen to rescue me! Some bits of bramble had even rooted in the lime mortar of the wall! I was immensely relieved to reach the end and then sat on my jacket on the grass to recover. I then realised that I was sitting on some young stinging nettles that still managed to sting me, despite the jacket! The stinging nettle is probably my next most grudgingly admired plant!
We then headed back for lunch – homemade chicken soup and couscous salad, with mixed beans, olives, tomato (garden), onions, garlic, peppers and feta cheese. After lunch, I went out to our side of the wall to pull out the bramble tendrils that had rooted in our border. This then reminded me that the entire border could do with a jolly good tidy up! That can be a job for tomorrow and the next day…and the next day…!