This is the first Gatekeeper I have seen this year. We have had an unusually prolific season for meadow browns over the last few weeks, which in ‘closed wing’ position I find easy to confuse with gatekeepers, unless I can see the wing spots clearly. But this one was obligingly drying its wings – they are very undamaged so I assume it is a very recent arrival (in butterfly form, anyway), maybe even today. Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset

Now I’ve seen the first, I’m hoping to see them everywhere…Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 11b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 5 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 1


I was given a bee house in May. Previously I was the proud owner of a bumblebee nest box, which didn’t seem to be a success until, in early Spring 2014, I watched a small, dozy bumblebee crawl out of it, slowly get its act together, and fly off…

I wasn’t certain how a bee house would work, so I put it in a quiet south-facing out-of-the-way corner, later adding a pot of lavender under it.

Bee House, Totnell 1

After a couple of weeks of nada and niente, I decided to move the house to a length of wall that stayed longer in the morning sun, and to dispense with the lavender.



This looked more promising, but I was highly doubtful that such a fine multi-apartment abode would find favour with the bees. The holes looked good – a range of large down to very small – but still, it looked a bit… NEW. I thought it would need to be weathered for 6 months to get rid of the smell of ‘shop’. 

Gratifyingly soon, however, I was proved wrong. One morning we found (a) a bee inspecting one of the penthouse suites and (b) 2 partial wax capsBee House, Totnell 3

Note bees on the roof and on the lower storey; 2 partially capped cells on the upper storeyBee House, Totnell 4

The following morning there was evidence of further activity – one completely capped cell

Bee House, Totnell 5Bee House, Totnell 6

Since then a number of bees have taken overnight accommodation in the bee house. They prefer the holes drilled in wood over bamboo holes for a short stay, and at any given moment there are two or three small faces visible.

So overall we are pleased to report that the experiment can be counted a success. The garden has been revitalised during the last 2 years following 20 years or so of benign neglect, and bee-friendly plants have been a priority. So far, so good.

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Allium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, Dorset


JACOB SHEEP Totnell, Dorset i

Until the beginning of the year we had some beautiful DORSET SHEEP in the field. They arrived last summer with their lambs, carefully numbered but rather random in their choice of maternal feeding station. They had a guest to stay, the RAM. Then they were left to themselves for the winter before being relocated to allow the grass to recover.

Paddock mown

This time last year our son’s wedding took place in the field, and it had been smartened up for the purpose (Mrs RH and I had our wedding reception in the same field nearly… erm… x0 years ago). This spring, the grass has grown lush and replete with buttercups, ready for the next ovine mowers to graze. They arrived last weekend, 6 freshly shorn adult Jacobs with their 10 lambs between them. Here are some studies of the one I want (perversely) to call Daisy, with her lambs… 

Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 1Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 2Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 5Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 4Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 3Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 10 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 9 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 7 Jacob Sheep, Totnell, Dorset 6


“Assorted Aquilegia” is probably what it said on the packet. But it came from a wholesome source not unconnected with Perch Hill, and the results of the experiment have been gratifyingly immediate and colourful this year. New soil in the beds (after a lengthy lay-off from any serious attempt at cultivation) may have something to do with it as well. Here are some of the flowers snapped on an iPhone this weekend. 

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This young robin assisted me while I was gardening by encouraging me to turn more soil for his benefit. He was mostly within arm- or foot-length, and when we got tangled he flew to the edge of the garden rubbish bag. It was there that noticed the intricacy of his feathers, and so I took advantage of a bird’s eye view, so to speak. Click an image twice for a full-scale close-up.

Garden Robin West London 1Garden Robin West London 2Garden Robin West London 3




Mapperton House in Dorset  is not hard to find, but it is somewhat off the beaten track near Beaminster. In the recent film Far from the Madding Crowd the fine manor house, which dates from the c16, became the farm inherited by Bathsheba Everdene. We planned to see the film the weekend it came out, and spent the morning at Mapperton to get into a Hardyesque frame of mind. A form of ‘method’ film previewing, I suppose. It was a dull day, but here are some photos from our visit. And yes, we thought the film was wonderful, with ‘Bathsheba’ and ‘Gabriel’ excelling in particular…

Mapperton House, Dorset 1 Mapperton House, Dorset 2 Mapperton House, Dorset - Gatepost The later west front of the houseMapperton House, Dorset - west side

The back of the house, from the gardensMapperton House, Dorset - back view

The sunken gardenMapperton House, Dorset - sunken gardensMapperton House, Dorset 5

The sundial (base and column old, dial and gnomon new)Mapperton House, Dorset - sundial

The orangeryMapperton House, Dorset - Orangery

The stables and yard, as seen from the house in the film; and as they areIMG_1487-1030x773Mapperton House, Dorset - stables A

Note Bathsheba’s modern carriageMapperton House, Dorset - stables B

An unusual double-stepped mounting blockMapperton House, Dorset - Mounting Block

The ChapelMapperton House, Dorset - chapel 1

St Ambrose, with his hive and bees – one of several very good pieces of stained glassSt Ambrose and bees, Mapperton, Dorset

Yah, Troy here, yah, the thing is I’ve sort of fallen for this feisty farmer girl, ok?

Tom Sturridge films a scene for the movie Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset Featuring: Tom Sturridge Where: Sherbourne, United Kingdom When: 22 Oct 2013 Credit:

Tom Sturridge films a scene for the movie Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset
Featuring: Tom Sturridge
Where: Sherbourne, United Kingdom
When: 22 Oct 2013

Mapperton Map jpg


Frog Totnell 2015 9 I was lying on the grass for rustic maintenance reasons when something small and greeny-yellow leapt onto my hand. And off again quickly. A tiny frog, dwarfed by mere pea-gravel, yet perfectly formed. It wasn’t in a hurry so I ran indoors, grabbed a camera, and had a leisurely photo session with it. I assume it’s just a juvenile common or garden frog Croakus vulgaris frequentis, but if anyone knows different I’d be pleased to know. You can see me reflected in the frog’s eye in the header image.Frog Totnell 2015 2Frog Totnell 2015 1Frog Totnell 2015 3

THE FROG HAS PICKED UP A COMPANIONFrog Totnell 2015 5Frog Totnell 2015 6Frog Totnell 2015 8Frog Totnell 2015 7Frog Totnell 2015 10



Sometimes a sequence of photos suggests a narrative. I’m not sure I have ever been so close to a jackdaw before, but this one completely ignored me as it practised what appear to be its marching steps… 

Lead Off With The LeftJACKDAW 15-1

Left Foot Firmly ForwardJACKDAW 15-2

Pause To Change StrideJACKDAW 15-3

Right Foot Forward…JACKDAW 15-4



We saw the first few swallows of summer here in Dorset yesterday. Two singletons and a group of three. Their arrival is about a week earlier than usual. One swallow may not make a summer (though it works for eating an oyster), but since there were five of them, I reckon early summer is here.