Day 16: 30 Days Wild – Garden Update

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Tonight I thought I would spend some time in my garden after a hectic week dealing with the aftermath of the election at work.

I dead headed some of my violas and gave everything a good water. It’s so relaxing listening to the birds and feeling the breeze after being coughed on by the air conditioning and listening to moaning voices all day.

My main excitement is I have seven ripe and ready to eat strawberries. There would have been a couple more but the slugs beat me to them.


What I call chuffed

The cherries on my tree are beginning to turn! Just hope I can beat the birds to them.


Too excited over ripening cherries

The agapanthus is looking like it’s about to burst into flower any day and lots of other little plants I have in pots are looking blooming wonderful!


I’m really happy with how my garden is looking and how it is attracting plenty of bees and the like. Slugs not so welcome.

On Sunday we are going to look at a possible allotment space around the corner from where we live. I’ve got lots of plans already, mostly involving garlic.

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Day 15: 30 Days Wild – Clean Air Day

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We are already half way through 30 Days wild. I won’t know what to do with myself when it’s over!

Today is the first ever National Clean Air Day! Finally another way to get across the importance of the immediate changes we need to make in order to tackle the rapid rates of climate change.

Nitrogen levels are far too high and this is having a dire consequence on our wildlife.

Here are a few ways we contribute to cleaner air:

  • Leave your car at home and walk once in a while. This also has an added benefit for your health.


  • Ask yourself do you really need to put the heating on? perhaps a super cozy jumper will do instead?


  • Do the standby sweep. Check there isn’t anything left on standby or anything on charge that doesn’t need it.


  • Turn your car engine off when you are stationary.


  • Public Transport isn’t that bad. Why not leave your car and get the bus or tram into work?


  •  Plant more trees! Trees are so important in so many ways and especially when it comes to our air.


  • Switch to renewables. Fossil fuels have created this public health emergency we have on our hands with air pollution.


Really hope we can make this day bigger and better each year and really push our government to take urgent action. We need it, the future needs it and our Wildlife needs it.



Day 14: 30 Days Wild – Making a donation

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The Wildlife Trust is an organisation that has been a part of me for a very long time.

Back in the day me and brother used to receive the Wildlife Trust kids magazine, which was the highlight of our month. Now I’m involved with a local friends group and we’ve worked with our local wildlife conservation officer in the past and hopefully again soon in the future.

Today is pay day for me so I have made a £10 donation plus gift aid to the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Thank you Wildlife Trusts for all the hard work and dedication towards protecting our wildlife.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has been going for 50 years and continues to commit to our county’s wildlife and wild spaces.

I really hope #30DaysWild has opened more people’s eyes to the wildlife around us and the action we need to take so that future generations can take part too.


Day 12: 30 Days Wild – Delving into the archives

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I have a major dislikes to Mondays. I’m not going to lie I had the grumps.

I just want a shack in a piece of woodland with pigs, where I can just write and illustrate all day long.

Anyway this is a slightly lazy post but I thought I would delve into the archives and share some of my photos of wildlife.


You what mate.


Bees! Bees! Hark to your bees!
Hide from your neigbours as much as you please,
But all that has happened, to us you must tell,
Or else we will give you no honey to sell! 


Luvin the puffin


Broke my glasses getting this rare picture of Baz Waterman

And a collection of flowers, mostly taken in mother’s garden or the Hornby Plantation. The second picture in this collection has a particularly rare flower in full bloom.


Day 11: 30 Days Wild – Exploring local woodland

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Today we went for a plod up to just one of patches of woodland which encompasses our area. I don’t know if it has an official name but we call it the woods at the top of Peafield Lane. Actually thinking about it, it’s probably just another bit of Sherwood Forest. If you keep plodding you can end up at the Major Oak.


Archie our loyal companion leads the way

I love nothing more than being in the great outdoors and we are in one of the best locations for that. Just a shame I can’t get a job outside of an office.

It really is like walking into a completely new universe when you enter the woodland. Suddenly you can longer hear the cars, the trees protect you from the harsh sun, and you feel a new air of calm.

I just love being surrounded by the wildlife and listening to the breeze rustling through the trees. I always feel that this is where I belong and completely inspired by the natural world.

It would have been great to see deer or a stag but apparently the stags prefer rampaging around Morrison’s car park.

I spent a lot of time looking up the noses of the fox glove for bees and going off the path to feel the spongy moss under foot.


Any bees up there? 

As we were making our way back along the border of the woods you can see Clipstone Colliery in the distance, a constant reminder of our mining history that made our town once so proud and prosperous.


The two headstocks of Clipstone Colliery in the far distance. 

I really do wish I had more time for the outdoors. It would be the dream to own a little patch of woodland and have a little shed where I can write, inspired by my surroundings.



Day 10: 30 Days Wild – Cleaning up our area

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If there’s one thing I love about being involved with the Friends of Hornby Plantation is the dedication we have. It was pouring with rain this morning and it was on and off all morning, but we still went out in force.

Today we were doing our bit for International Clean Up Mansfield Day which was actually yesterday.

Myself, my brother Liam and Olly took it upon ourselves to litter pick around the area.


Skillen siblings in force

We made quite a few discoveries around the plantation. The main surprise was a geocache box right in the the middle of plantation in the brambles.

Meanwhile Sue and John cut down over hanging branches and Vicky tended to the community garden. The birds really do flock to the bird feeders in the garden and Vicky really does have a job on keeping them full!

We discussed a few more plans for the area, including a children’s garden, outdoor classroom area and plans for the willow house which was destroyed by vandalism a few years ago.

We’ll be getting our hands dirty again on Saturday 24th June for our save the bees action afternoon.


The Friends of Hornby Plantation

Day 8&9: 30 Days Wild: General Election

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So I had a very long, busy, tiring day slaving away in the elections office yesterday.

I really hope the guy who rang up to say his mobility scooter had broken down on the way to the polling station had made it.

In Mansfield we’ve had a shock result and 94 years of Labour hold has come to an end. Ben Bradley of the Conservative Party has been elected our new MP.

This for me means that our environment, wildlife and district is at a new increased risk. I will be sending a letter which will go a little like this:

To our newly elected Member of Parliament,

There is a threat looming over our district. A threat which must be stopped with immediate effect.

Never before has our cherished wildlife, environment and landscapes been so at stake. In Nottinghamshire we pride ourselves on our vast ancient woodlands and preserving this treasure for generations to come.

I bet you can predict what is coming next, but I urge you not to turn a blind eye.

Without action on climate change five years after this election we could see 200,000 premature deaths linked to air pollution in the UK. A real pressing issue in our area is the reckless building on green spaces. Already nightjar nesting has been put at risk by huge developments in the district and 18,300 hectares more of our precious green space could be lost across the UK. Wildlife habitats are at huge risks. We are the stewards of the earth, the government should not be exempt in this duty.

The most colossal challenge to our district is the shadow cast by fracking giants INEOS. I beg that you consider our environment for the future. Fossil fuels must stay down in the ground and a new focus on renewables is a must.

Do you envisage an area that can’t use its own its own tap water? By drilling into coal beds, immensely dangerous chemicals will contaminate our water supplies. Is this the Mansfield you want? Care for Mansfield and not for the huge cheque.

Mansfield will stand up against fracking and in favour in of preserving our land. We can’t regress and we must progress when it comes to addressing environmental issues. By supporting fracking you will be undermining the commitment to tackling climate change.

If you want to do what’s best for Mansfield, you will oppose fracking, respect the rich history of the area, and preserve our treasured environment for a thriving future.

Mansfield did not vote for our land to be destroyed and our wildlife to be put into danger.






Day Seven – 30 Days Wild: Eating raspberries off the bush and other rambles

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I’ve had a complaint…

Of course I have to take complaints seriously so in this blog post I will address the problem.

Let me introduce the award winning, regionally recognised, community hero secretary of the Friends of Hornby Plantation, Liam Skillen. My brother.


Award winning secretary to the left. 

And now brother Liam has had his mention I shall move on.

We’ve had another funny day. Not as in haha funny but not sure what to make of it funny. In the night my cherry tree was a victim of the high winds and was blown over.

I didn’t manage to escape the office yesterday due to the heavy rain, but today the skies had cleared in time for lunch.

Despite nearly getting blown away I got my breath of fresh air and break from the ever ringing phones.

It is hard to find time for nature when you have a busy office job but I’m finding it more rewarding in doing so.

Tomorrow is the one we’ve all been waiting for…. to be over. The general election. Unfortunately I will be stuck in the elections office from 8am to 10pm. However I have a plan for tomorrow’s blog.

After work tonight I round to mother’s house and went up the garden into the orchard to search for old wood which I can make into some bee houses for the plantation.

Sorry mum but I ate a few raspberries it wasn’t the birds.





Day six: 30 Days Wild – Interview with local artist Baz Waterman

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Today I caught up with local resident and renowned artist Baz Waterman. I was lucky to catch Baz as he’s a busy bloke on a tight schedule.


Baz Waterman popping out to speak to me earlier today. Photo by Kate Skillen. 

K: So Baz how’s it going at the minute, we don’t see you too often?

BW: I’m doing great thanks love. Just checking up on my new youngns. Growing up fast.

K: It seems just yesterday they were just spawn. What do you love about the area that you keep returning?

BW: Woodhouse born and bred me. I have a good pond, that provides a good belly of food and free movement. Up here I can just simply hop through the hedge and visit another pond, another garden or the Hornby Plantation.

K: So how’s the new exhibition going?

BW: Yeah great reception. Last week a very big idol of mine Mr Jeremy Fisher rolled up and I had the honour of showing him around. He’s a top chap. Knows his art.

K: And finally before you have to shoot off back to the exhibition, can we expect a tour of the exhibition to other areas?

BW: Aye yeah, I’ve wanted for years to venture beyond Sherwood Forest, but I’ve always been weary how others will take my work. I’m dead proud of this collection and yeah I do want to show it off. I’ll catch you later.

Baz quickly disappeared into the depths of the pond.



Day 4&5: 30 Days Wild – Rainy Days

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To catch up on yesterday, while the sun was out I inspected my garden and how everything was getting along. The bees were present and it’s great to see some of my other little plants begin to flower. My herbs are also coming along nicely, although one of my bay trees looks a bit sickly.

Most of yesterday and part of today I have been planning various events for a little conservation group I’m involved with.

The Friends of Hornby plantation is one of the smallest friends groups in the district but that doesn’t stop us from being one of the most active.

Next Saturday we having one of our action mornings, where we work around the woodland and park area to keep it looking great for our community. This Saturday we are doing it as part of Clean up Mansfield day where all the other Mansfields in the world are also do something active to clean up their areas.

I have also been organising a ‘Save the bees’ action afternoon in the plantation. I’ll pop in the poster so if you’re in the area why not join us!

For this one I thought we could do some bee counting as part of Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count, I’ve got a bee identification sheet, we will also be sowing some wild flower seeds and making some bee houses.


Talking of bee houses mine arrived today. I unboxed it and went straight out into the rain to choose a spot. I thought under my cherry tree would be suitable.


The other event I’m co-organsing is our annual summer fun day. The flyers are printed and preparations are well under way. I’m going to be running a wildlife related craft but I haven’t decided what yet.

Tomorrow I’m back at work but now I will be working in the elections office full time. I was hoping I could walk to work one day this week but the weather looks grim.

If you like the sound of what we do with the Friends of Hornby Plantation give our Facebook page a like or follow us on Twitter.