"The Atholl Palace is one of my favourite places where each year we meet up with good friends and have fun. It's the perfect place to stay in a perfect setting with lovely people looking after us. What more could a person want?"
Sitting in the early spring sunshine in the herb garden can be an interesting experience at this time of year. Not only to admire the first, early flowers but for the birds, which are very busy with various tasks.
Enjoying a warm burst of sun the other day in the herb garden I was amused by, at least, two pairs of blue tits building nests in the old wall. Blackbirds and thrushes were, both, collecting material for their nests in the beech hedge and collecting worms for early broods. Jackdaws a species we often ignore as uninteresting, wrongly, were busy in the vegetable beds collecting vast mouthfuls of dung. I thought at first they were searching for early grubs but in fact they were flying off with their load which suggests nesting material. The day previously Kenny and I had watched them collecting mud from a wet pool and carrying it away, also. In less than quarter of an hour the nut feeder near me attracted a long tailed tit, coal tits, great tits, blue tits, chaffinches, a red squirrel and a pair of spotted woodpeckers. A busy place indeed.
As part of the winter restructuring of the gardens we have spent quite a bit of time on the main stairway leading up to the hotel. We felt it was both a bit tired and a bit messy so the old shrubs were removed. We are very pleased with the new roses most, if not all, of which are now growing well and look healthy. The special birch trees on the lower level are budding and the nepeta (catmint) is gathering itself for a big display, we hope. On the top level the old lion caused a bit of debate. Leave it as a mossy, old statue or give it a spring-clean and paint. The latter view won out in the end and we are pleased. It adds to the effect we wanted which was more formal and clean rather than shrubby and jaded.
We have tinkered with the fountain also. Sooner rather than later a major refurbishment of the fountain will be required but for now we have increased the water flow to produce a stronger jet. Getting the jet to stay vertical is another matter!
“Where are the ducks?” we were getting asked earlier this year. Well the answer was simple, “somewhere else”. Last year’s pairs failed to produce young because the crows found their nests. After a summer of getting fat on bread and tit-bits they returned to the river. Luckily, just when we were contemplating buying a couple of pairs two pairs of wild mallard returned. After a day or two of showing off to each other they settled down and as I write both females are nesting somewhere near the ponds. We built a small island to see if they might like it to nest on but no luck, the heron has decided that islands are good when surrounded by small trout.
The gardens are wakening from a winter of rest, spring flowers raise the spirit with their bright colours. Enjoy it all. Innes Smith
Innes finished in 04:41:34 and came 1987 out of 4117 who completed the race. A fabulous achievement!
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