If you keep up with my blogs (and a surprising number of people do) then you will know that recently I fell into a pond. Once upon a time (though this is not a fairy story) someone said to me (about someone else) ‘He was stupid to do that. He was even more stupid to tell everyone about it’. Stupid, yes. Had I remembered that piece of advice then I would have slunk home, dripping wet, showered and changed – as one does in such circumstances. Trouble was that Pete, the farmer at Whitmuir Organics, just happened to be mulching his apple trees when I walked past on the way to my car. My secret was out. No point hiding it. Big man falls in pond. Welly boots full to brim….
My brother (who, it seems, is one of the nice people who read my blog), has taken my welfare to heart. This Christmas I unwrapped a long, well-wrapped and very flexible present that, hopefully, I shall never have to use because the pond-dipping platform on the aforesaid pond now has a safety cable around it that unbalanced folk like me can grab on to (photo here).
The pond dipping platform at Middle Pond at Whitmuir Organics now has a hand rope with a steel core. It is ex-naval, the kind of thing that goes around the edge of yachts and it should stop me falling in again. The blue drums need to be wrapped to make them a bit more presentable. It means I’ll have to go in the pond again – though this time I’ll be wearing waders.
Yes, really. Not merely slipped off the side and got my feet wet, this was a roll-in-sideways job, fully clothed in overalls and welly boots. I decided the rain was too bad to work in and I went to stand up. I was kneeling, and I went to put my left leg on the sticky-out planks that you see in the photo… the planks I had just sawn off to make the platform into the shape of a tadpole.
The only other time I can remember falling into a pond was when I was three. They say you can’t remember things from that age but that just ain’t true, folks. I had a new pair of wellies and I was trying them out. I didn’t know that the pond would come over my boots and can remember them filling up with water. Then I fell forwards. I don’t remember anything else. I’m told that the gardener (no, not ours, we didn’t even have a garden. My mother was working as a housekeeper at the time) found me floating face-down and hauled me out.
Some pond-dipping platforms don’t have handrails. The one at Whitmuir Organics WILL have one….
Funny how things you haven’t thought of for years suddenly come to mind. What triggered my latest flashback was reading about children not having the freedom to do their own thing, to swim in rivers or play on the edge of them with a fishing net trawling for newts and taddies (the newts bit, here). In that regard I was lucky and I’m sure I know why. My parents had been through a war, and waking up alive each morning was probably all they could hope for. If your boy (I don’t want to sound sexist, but it seemed to be only boys) wanted to go off and do his own thing, that was fine. He told you he was going to a friend’s house. From there he went and stood on the banks of a river in spate, wondering if it was worth using his fishing net or if the newts and taddies had already been swept out to sea – like he would be if he got too close to the water… or simply jammed under a bridge and drowned, like a boy later that same day.
I had a friend who stared at me in disbelief when I admitted to him that I had never broken an arm. I was 13 at the time and he had already broken both of his – on separate occasions – and he didn’t play sport. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not advocating a return to all that. But we do need to do something. As a father and grandfather, I’m still not sure what that is. Send your answers on a postcard…
Whitmuir the Organic Place is making a wildlife garden. Forget any preconceived ideas you may have about square or rectangular plots because Whitmuir’s fields are separated from one another by shelter belts around 20 metres wide, and a length of 1.5km of these is being transformed into the new garden. The belts already have avenues of mature beech trees, which look to me to be about 200 years old. These will soon be supplemented by additional native trees, shrubs and woodland wildflowers. Areas have already been cleared and seeded with varieties from ‘Scotia Seeds’. Hundreds of native wildflowers have been grown in plugs and pots, and over the next few months many more will be raised this way and planted out.
The photograph shows the new pond, made by restructuring old boggy land and damming a small burn. The pond will encourage wildlife and provide educational opportunities, including a platform for ‘pond dipping’ (it’s a long time since I did that. I used to catch newts in the River Frome. Not sure I’d be allowed to do that now…)