Category Archives: Lucky dip

Topics we find interesting – who knows what might turn up?

New arrivals in my ‘garden meadow’

One of my projects this spring has been to set up a small area of ‘meadow’ in our garden – in other words, remove the mower.  This is an area of about two square metres down the side of the house, where nothing grows very well and ‘no one’ (meaning my less than impressed wife) goes much.

My original plan was to leave it and see what happens – what wonderful meadow flowers would move in through the magic of nature.  However my botanist friend Richard came to stay a few weeks ago and kyboshed that one.  Continue reading

BBC Countryfile comes to Hillhouse Wood, and I meet Tom

A few days ago a film crew from BBC Countryfile spent several hours in Hillhouse Wood, near Colchester.  They were filming a clip relating to Ash die back, and the Woodland Trust (who owns the wood) had suggested that our wood would be a suitable one to use.  This was on the basis that a) it has mature Ash trees, b) it is easily accessible, and c) (I suspect) that the Friends of Hillhouse Wood, a local support group, would likely provide someone to look after the filmers and make sure they didn’t get lost / trash the wood / hold an all-night rave. Continue reading

Buy a Naturetale app in September 2014 and win a copy of a beautifully illustrated book on Britain’s grasslands

During September anyone who buys the Naturetale app can win one of five free copies of the lovely book ‘Jewels Beyond The Plough – a Celebration of Britain’s Grasslands’.  Just Tweet or e-mail us the date of your purchase and we’ll enter you into a draw.  If you’re drawn out we’ll ask you one simple question about the app, to check you’ve actually got it, and then post you your copy.

Here’s some information about the book, and the rules of the promotion are below.


Continue reading

The origins of Halloween and the plants associated with it

Halloween is believed to trace back to a Celtic festival called Samhain.  This marked the end of Summer and, thus, the start of Winter.  This was an important time for societies in which winter survival was by no means guaranteed, as it meant the end of the harvest period.  As winter was associated with darkness and an increased likelihood of death, so was Halloween.  The Druids believed that the spirits of those who died during the preceding year roamed the earth on the night of Samhain. Continue reading

Why is a mobile phone app like a dog?

A deeply intriguing question, you may well respond.  Clearly the answer cannot lie in the area of embarrassing and unpleasant messes that need to be cleared up.  It could be something to do with being kept awake at night and disturbed sleep.  Or the connection could lie with their propensity to absorb far too much time, distracting you from more important tasks.  It could even be something to do with the cost of their upkeep – especially those gaming apps we hear about that are bankrupting parents who give their kids their credit card details. Continue reading

Why the Naturetale app is good at identifying stuff (and why this has little to do with me)

Even something as apparently straightforward as the development of a flower and berry information app needs a range of expertise to bring it to fruition.  We identified early on that someone who knows the first thing about plants might be an advantage.  And so we have been very lucky to retain the services of a certain Dr. Richard Jefferson.  Dr. Jefferson, or ‘Richard’, as we tend to call him is one of the most pre-eminent botanists who was in my year group at school.  Or, at least, the most pre-eminent who is still prepared to talk to me.

As this typical pose demonstrates, botany’s gain is Hollywood’s loss.  Harrison Ford et al will be forever relieved. Continue reading

Ground ivy – the flower we have to blame for all this

Many books have been written about how to innovate, to come up with ideas for new products and new businesses. And probably many more pounds have been spent by companies on consultants to run innovations sessions, workshops et al. Quite a bit of it wasted (I write as a former participant).

Ironically the irksome messiness of real life means that great new ideas cannot be programmed with certainty, or generated to order.

The genesis of Naturetale is a case in point; an illustration of how serendipity does its work when and where it chooses. Continue reading