The Rock Garden

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Though protected by current regulation, Limestone Pavement is a fascinating stone which reflects the influences of water, weather and the environment.  We are lucky at Mindrum, to have a wonderful Limestone Pavement rock Garden which was installed in the Mid 1930’s.  

Could this be the same rock garden - looks familiar
Could this be the same rock garden – looks familiar

A picture of the Mindrum Garden from 1879, shows that the gardens were limited to what is now the top garden, with a south facing wall for growing fruit trees overlooking the river.  Much of what is now the bottom garden, along the Mindrum Burn, was just a grassy gully which appeared to be grazing land.   A study of the older maps shows that a mill race left the river here and ran down to Mindrum Mill where it powered the grain mill.

In 1927, Mindrum was bought by Charles Chartres, who had started his career as a hydro electric engineer in India.  His wife, a keen gardener, and started to develop the garden and in the 1930’s.  It is on record and it is on record that she saw a rock garden in the Chelsea Flower show which she bought and moved to Mindrum, installing it in the grassy gully to the south of the garden.   We don’t know for sure, but the attached picture xxx taken at Chelsea in 1935 does contain some familiar rocks – perhaps this is the same stone.
Little is known about the garden at this stage, but in the late 1940s, the now extensive gardens became rather hard work and,  allegedly, Her husband (having sent her to London to go shopping with a cheque for 200 pounds) covered the rock garden with soil and on her return she found that it had been planted with Scots Pine Trees.  (Some of which are still visible today).  History doesn’t relate the discussion that ensued on her return!
When he moved to Mindrum in 1955, One of the first things that Pery Fairfax did, on hearing that there was a lost rockery, was to find and recover it.
Over a two year period, he and his team removed trees and excavated the hillside until he discovered the pools, cliffs, rocks and waterfalls that had been lost over a decade earlier.
Pictures of the garden that had just been recovered showed that this was a significant piece of work but enabled him to start planting many of the trees we still see today.  After marrying Pery in 1965, Ginny became interested in the garden and over the next 5 decades, Pery and Ginny, together, developed the rockery, with Pery focusing on the trees and the ponds and Ginny developing the planting in the borders with an artist’s eye.
Eighty years after its initial layout, the rock garden is still going strong, changing every year and still in good working order.

The Puerility of Politics

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A rare foray into politics – Driving to work yesterday I was musing on how how our collective political class have managed, so effectively, to trivialise such an important debate (the UK election).  The debate seems to focus largely now on tactical bribes or bullying that is calculated to appeal to particular voter groups.  Then there is the usual side debate about how triviality is stopping people from voting – I hear this frequently when chatting to people.

I was then struck by “a sense of the Bleeding Obvious” (I am probably rather behind everyone else!) Given that our political class are all fighting for their jobs and accepting that they are normal (if sometimes arrogant) members of society who have stepped forward to do a job that most of us don’t want to do.

I think that we should allow them their “Silly Season”, ignore the Gibberish we are hearing from all sides – and focus on the strategic picture.

This, of course, means that the rest of us have to stand forward and take the strategic view, noting that the entire political class is currently compromised and the civil service (at least those who are not either in purdah or on long term stress related sick leave) are running the country.  It is up to us, the humble voters…..

I think we owe it to our country to ignore the election generated fluff and focus on the core question:  Who do we want to be running the country for the next 5 years?  For me – this is a no brainer ….. !

Most importantly, we need to get off our backsides and vote (I already have, by post).

June Garden Opening

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Garden5We had astonishing turnout yesterday (Sunday 22nd June) when the Mindrum Gardens were open for the National Garden Scheme (Yellow Book) and Hospice Care North Northumberland.   The day was perfect, dry but not too hot, and people were amazing, coming from Far and Wide.

We had changed a few things around so were unsure as to how it would work.  The Car Park reverted to the old paddock and seemed to perform well with some excellent car parking by Paul Blackburn and Gary Richardson.  The teas team worked flat out all afternoon to keep everyone well supplied and the plant stall never stopped.

One of the Hotly Contested Duck race Heats emerging out of the jungle!

In addition to the the garden, we also hosted th
e famous Hospice Care Great Northumberland DuckRace. This is a high profile event involving masses of small yellow ducks, a muddy burn and loads of children!  This, in itself raised over £900 for Hospice care.  There were also plant stalls, cake and produce stalls and teas.  In all, a tremendous day.

We are still doing the final count, but are fairly sure that it was a record day for MIndrum

A big thank you to everyone who supported us, both the helpers who made the day possible and the amazing people who came from far and wide to support.

Sand Martins back in the sand quarry

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The first Sand Martins have started returning to the old sand quarry.  Most of this colony used to nest by the river in the sand cliffs, but  when it changed course in the floods a couple of years ago, they moved and last year set up a colony in the farm sand pit by the lambing sheds.

Last year there were 40 or so pairs.

We had wondered whether they would return to the new sand cliffs created by the river – we will keep an eye on them and update as things develop.

Cyber Hygiene in Agriculture – as important as bio security?

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In one of my other lives, I run a cyber security consultancy.  Security Risk Management is a niche consultancy which specialises in helping a range of clients across Public, Private and Third sectors keep their information and computer systems as safe as possible.  One thing that has become clear, however, is how poor many who work in the agricultural sector are at managing their computer security.

This is strange.  Farms are increasingly dependent on technology and farmers (should) understand the management of hygiene and risk, though more often than not, it is not until there is a problem (by which time it is too late) that many farmers show any interest in the subject at all.   

This was brought home the other day when, whilst on the way to buy a bull at the Stirling Sales, I was rung by a friend who had been infected with the ransomware Cryptolocker  – a particularly nasty piece of Malware that encrypts a victim’s data and then attempts to extort money to make it available.  I’m pleased to say he didn’t pay – but as a result, he lost much of his information (it is generally considered unfeasible to break the cryptolocker encryption).  He ruefully admitted that he hadn’t backed up his computer for over two years, something which would have given him significant resilience.  It may have been accidental that this attack happened when he was doing his year end.  Fortunately his bookkeeper had backed up her files and could recover some of the lost financial data, but most of his personal and operational data was lost.  

A number of other friends admit to running old PCs with little or no security or antivirus software – certainly nothing current.    Many often note that their systems are shockingly slow.  Clearly this is often due to the Cruft Factor (the degree to which a computer “runs like a dog” after time takes its toll) but often it is because they have been infected by quantities of malware – and are often being farmed themselves as part of one or more Botnets.

It is not until one loses data or systems that it becomes clear how critical they have become to our lives and businesses.  Most farms are dependent on IT for a range of management and compliance activities ranging from livestock movement reporting, operational analysis and record keeping.  Many of these activities are not only critical from a practical sense, but mandatory in terms of compliance.  Even those who still keep their accounts in a ledger (quite common in the agricultural sector) are dependent on the Online Environment for reporting a range of issues.

Curiously, the farming paradigm has distinct parallels with the cyber environment, particularly those proponents of the dark side who routinely farm vast communities of compromised technologies and, by extension, the people who use them.  With my security hat on, I frequently use farming as an analogy (see Analogies Project), it is ironic that many in the farming sector do not see the threat until it is too late.


Another sign of spring….. and some poultry politics!

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The first batch of chicks have come off the incubator…. they are supposed to be cream leg bars (Brown and Fawn depending on their Sex) though I see that there are a suspicious number of black chicks… (clearly a travelling cockerel has raided the chicken run!)  

The Ballad of Soggy Ground

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The rain, it pours like cats and dogs; the ground begins to flood,
As rivers swell, detritus marks the tidemark on the mud.
The hallowed swathes of England’s turf with urban rubbish covered,
And fields of winter wheat or spuds with dirty water smothered.
At home the search for scapegoats start with pundits casting blame,
And single issue pressure groups who seek the gleam of fame.
We whinge about the government or farmers’ new laid drains
And whine about ‘The water Co’ and ever blocked up mains.
But something clear now seems forgot as hot our rage we vent, 
As waves of rivers’ bursted banks wash Somerset and Kent.
We might ask why the ground on which our new built homes are set.
Though low and by the waters edge was never built on yet!
Our patios and roofs and roads and carparks seem to cloak
This once soft land now covered up, no longer free to soak.
The isle on which our lives are led is blessed with lots of rain,
Do we think what happens once it gushes down the drain?
But most of us can play a part and help to sort this strife
For some its part of daily grind and chosen way of life 
For others maybe common sense will find the balanced way
But everywhere, a bit of thought might help to save the day.