box caterpillars

Very Hungry Box Caterpillars – A Formidable Enemy

Towards the end of May last year, when the two mature box (buxus) hedges at the front of our house should have been sprouting new leaves, I noticed that barren patches were starting to appear. These hedges were planted 20 years ago and provide attractive green borders for two miniature gardens, so the sudden change in their appearance was worrying.

You Can Lose Your Box Hedges in a Fortnight!

I had heard on the news that box tree moth caterpillars were spreading rapidly in the UK, so I peered inside the hedges to take a closer look at what was going on. To my horror, I found dozens of these bright green and black menaces munching away on the leaves. Around 30% of our hedges had already been stripped of all their greenery before I had even realised what was happening. My grandson loves the children’s story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” – I wanted to show him a real life version, but I guess he might have found this a bit scary!

Around Kent: Among the Cherries and the Vines

Cherry-picking at Chegworth Valley and a visit to Yotes Court Vineyard make for a great day out.

One of the brilliant things about living in Kent, the so-called Garden of England, is the sheer abundance of locally-grown soft fruit available in the summer months – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and gooseberries, as well as stone fruits such as plums and cherries. In autumn, Kentish orchards are bursting with apples and pears and the local vineyards are producing a rich crop of grapes.

The Lavender Walk: Shoreham to Castle Farm

One of the loveliest walks in Kent takes you through the beautiful village of Shoreham to the lavender fields at Castle Farm in the Darent Valley. The ideal month to do this walk is July when the lavender is in full bloom and there’s a sea of vivid purple in the valley.

Starting Point

Most people will probably arrive in Shoreham by car, but the village is very accessible by train as well. Shoreham Station is only 200 yards or so from the starting-point of this walk. The narrow lanes of Shoreham mean that it isn’t the easiest place to find parking. If you’re coming by car, my suggestion would be to park along Station Road, down the hill from Shoreham Station.

Ermoupoli, Syros

Ermoupoli, Syros – a Great Place to Chill

A few weeks ago a Greek friend had recommended to us Ermoupoli on the island of Syros in the Cyclades as a really nice spot to spend a few days. He said it’s more popular with Greeks than with foreign tourists and is beautiful but much less frenetic than islands like Mykonos and Santorini.

So, after a few very hot days in Athens recently, we found ourselves at the port of Piraeus looking at “Thunder,” the boat which would take us to Syros.

Thunder at Ermoupoli, Syros

Thunder is operated by Fast Ferries and it’s a magnificent and very well-appointed vessel. It took us to Ermoupoli, the main port on Syros, in just over 2 hours. As the boat approached the port, there was bit of a scramble as people headed down to the lower deck to retrieve their bags, but we were soon walking off the boat and along the seafront promenade. Time to find our hotel.

About the Blog

Welcome to my blog. It’s an eclectic mix, but mostly I blog about travel, food and wine, lifestyle and sustainability.

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Exploring Chartwell – the Home of Sir Winston Churchill

I’m fortunate to live near Chartwell in Kent, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill. I’m a frequent visitor to Chartwell because…well it’s just a rather special place.

Even now, more than 50 years since his death, you can still sense Churchill’s spirit all around you whenever you visit. It’s well known that he loved the place very much, once famously remarking: “A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.”

It’s said that when Churchill first visited Chartwell in 1921, it was the view overlooking the Weald of Kent that he fell in love with. It subsequently became his home from 1922 until his death in 1965. Churchill was a talented artist and over the years Chartwell was the source of inspiration for many of his paintings. It was also a source of solace for him during the darkest days of World War II and at other difficult times in his life.

Review: The Vegan Bean Cookbook

A vegan cookbook that should interest non-vegans too

I’m not a vegan myself, but like so many of us I’m constantly on the lookout for healthier ways to eat. So when I stumbled across The Vegan Bean Cookbook recently it grabbed my attention.

This is a new publication from Sicilian author and food blogger Andrea Soranidis. It’s now available in the UK and looks to be a little gem, packed full of creative and tasty recipes.

What’s the USP?

The focus is on helping you create memorable vegan meals which are good for your body, relatively inexpensive and which can be prepared quickly.

Creating a Japanese Garden in Kent

A garden makeover – a challenging DIY project

When we bought our home in Kent, we had acquired quite a large, but not very appealing, semi-circular area of front garden. It was basically an expanse of driveway gravel with a few shrubs randomly planted in borders which had been created using upturned patio bricks. The good news was that there was clearly potential here for our Japanese garden project. But how to go about it?

The "old" garden
The original semi-circular garden

My wife, who comes from Japan herself, spent some time studying garden design books to figure out what sort of Japanese garden would work best in the space. Neither of us had ever done a project like this before and we weren’t really sure how to begin. But it wasn’t long before we were out digging up the front garden and levelling the whole area.

Healthier School Meals for All Children: An Interview with Ian Dunn

Ian believes passionately that children should be eating healthier school meals. He’s the driving-force behind and

I first came across the Self Sufficient Schools account on Twitter last year. It had a post asking people to sign a petition to make School Food-Growing & Self-Sufficiency a dedicated subject area of the UK National Curriculum. I was curious to find out more about this initiative, which was started by North London-based Ian Dunn, because it immediately struck me as a very good idea.

I still have fairly vivid memories of school food, which, back in the 1960s and 1970s, wasn’t very good at all. This was a salad-free era. I remember great big tubs of mashed potato and baked beans, toad-in-the-hole at least once a week, and always fried fish, or fish fingers, on Fridays. If we ever saw any green vegetables they’d usually been boiled to within an inch of their lives. Desserts were stodgy and unhealthy – treacle sponge or spotted dick – and nearly everything was served with custard. Fresh fruit was a rarity!