Bowood Woodland Gardens

So, I must write about some of our recent walks before I drown in all the photographs that I want to share with you.

We were lucky to take a walk in nearby Bowood gardens recently. This is such a beautiful place to visit, it quite blows my mind. The walk is about 2 miles through landscaped plantings of mostly Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Magnolias and Bluebells which blaze in a firework display of colour..

The original plants were first introduced in 1854 by the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne and the gardens now contain hybrids which were thought to be extinct. It must take a lot of loving care (not to mention funds) to maintain its brief but stunning loveliness.

The walk is only open for 6 weeks of the year when the flowers are in bloom so it can get quite busy, but there are many little winding paths that go off the beaten track so you could easily find yourself almost alone in a little glade that feels more like a magical fairy garden.

 

 

A Blustery Day in Kington St. Michael

The longer you don’t write, the harder it gets to write. Life took over for a while… a new job, Emily’s exams, coursework, housework, you know how it is I am sure. But, I have missed blogging, and so I am determined to ease myself into more regular postings. It is the spring that spurs me on, so much is going on outside and we have been out exploring and taking photos, so who else can I inflict these on but my lovely readers?

I have been self-employed for several years, and do various work for local people mostly admin and some copy writing for business websites. I recently started working on the reception of a local caravan site and it is one of the most enjoyable jobs I have ever done. I am very much an introvert and suffer from anxiety in most social situations, yet I have really enjoyed meeting the holidaymakers as they come to enjoy their time in the South West of England. It never ceases to amaze me that people actually choose to come here for their holidays, a place I’ve lived most of my life, while we head eagerly for the coast at the first glimmer of a ray of sun. It makes you want to try and appreciate what you do have right under your nose, you know?

We have many beautiful places to visit near here. The pictures above were taken in the small village of Kington St. Michael a couple of weeks ago. It is within walking distance of my house. Unfortunately the day was cold and blustery. This was good for whisking away winter’s cobwebs, but not so good for taking photos. The pictures are gloomy to say the least. Have you ever tried to take a picture of the delicate snake’s-head fritillary on a windy day? Well the above picture was the best I could manage under the circumstances.

I get weirdly excited when all the spring flowers are blooming and have this urge to take pictures of them ALL. I’d never seen the above tall snowdrop-like plant before, but have since looked it up (thank you google) and discovered it is called ‘leucojum‘ – a peculiar name for such a dainty flower.

I hope you are all well, and enjoying the changing of the seasons whichever part of the globe you live.

K xx

Biddestone

We took a walk around the small village of Biddestone last week. This is a small village just a few miles away from our home with a population of about five hundred.

I have a photo of myself at about eighteen months old in an immaculate white dress balanced on the stone stile by the pond here. My usual clothes would be scruffy trousers with patches and old faded t-shirts. But when I was with my nan she liked to dress me in pretty feminine dresses, much to my mum’s disgust. So it is a rare picture of me in a dress, but there is a scowl on my face to go with it!

When I was a bit older we would ride our bikes through the winding lanes to Biddestone. We would take food for the ducks who live by the large pond and sit outside on the benches. My brother and I would drink bottles of coca-cola through thin straws, and eat salted peanuts or crisps before we all set off for the ride back.

Last week, the sky was blue and the sun was shining, however it was bitterly bitterly cold. Perhaps the coldest day of the winter and we didn’t get far before we had to go back to the car to return circulation to our fingers even though we had gloves on.

The village dates back to Saxon times, and has been home to many industries, people and activities over the years. Though there is no longer a shop or school here, there is still a village hall and two pubs – the 18th century Biddestone Arms and the White Horse Inn.

If you have seen the 2013 film The Christmas Candle, you may recognise this village as some of it was filmed here, including at the White Horse pub.

The village water well in the top picture with its beautiful shelter still stands beside a row of cottages and traditional (still functional!) red telephone box, and we stopped to see the grade I listed St Nicholas church with its 13th century bell tower. The overgrown churchyard showed signs of spring bulbs pushing through the soil – narcissus and snowdrops – and flowering hellebores were dotted around the sinking gravestones.

There was more surprising wild beauty to see at this the most barren season. A long driveway was carpeted in yellow winter aconite and crocus. Overlooking the real ducks on the pond, there is a thatched roof with its own brace of ducks made of straw.

So the walk was short, but it was well worth venturing out on this chilly day. I am looking forward to many more walks in the coming months

Winter Heron

‘To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall. And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality.’

~ Thomas Hardy, Under The Greenwood Tree

I hope you are settling into the whispering rhythms of the new year.

It was my birthday last Monday, and although they seem to come around so much more quickly as I get older, and even though I was in bed with the flu, still, I like the quiet that accompanies birthdays these days. I can read, or go for a walk or cook something unfussy but delicious and there is no pressure for it to be anything more than that.

This heron was spotted from my bedroom window, I almost didn’t see him as he blends in so well with the bare branches and greyish bark of the winter trees. I like the way his white head is turned toward the sun and he seems to have his shoulders hunched like an old man. There is a pond not far below where he’s sat, and we often see herons fly over and disappear behind the hedge in search of fish.

Remembering Summer in Brighton

Back in August, Emily and I took a trip to Brighton. We only went for a few days, but this was our first trip away in years and the first time for both of us in Brighton. I usually prefer to travel somewhere a little more off the beaten track, but was pleasantly surprised by how quiet Brighton was despite it being the middle of the school holidays.

Our favourite things to do were to walk along or sit on the beach and read, or talk, or listen to the waves crash and see who could throw their pebbles the furthest. We had the beach almost to ourselves some of the time in the early mornings and late evenings.

We walked along the pier at night, which was also very quiet, although there were plenty of people inside playing on the games and fruit machines. Needless to say, we won and lost countless 2p pieces. At the end of the pier all the fairground rides were closed down for the night and it was quite spooky to see them all in the dark.

We had the most delicious very posh cream tea for Emily’s special belated birthday treat. It was a struggle, but we managed to polish off the lot between us, and I fell in love with a beautiful cast iron teapot, which has made it on to my Amazon wishlist.

Away from the beach, Brighton seemed a little tired and run down, but maybe this is because we visited the week after Pride. There is some refurbishment work going on to revive the seaside town, and I felt in parts it was sorely needed. But it didn’t much affect our trip as, like I said, we preferred to stay on the beach anyway.

There is something about the atmosphere in Brighton that is very relaxed and welcoming. I definitely plan to visit again one day.

Orange and Rust

There are so many orange and rusty burnished tones around right now. I know it is said often, but it is a beautiful time of year and it never gets old for me. We have delved into autumn here with enthusiasm. Emily carved a pumpkin after school on all Hallow’s Eve, and I made pumpkin pie. We’ve never had pumpkin pie before, it is just not a thing in the UK and you’d be hard pushed to find a can of pumpkin purée in a supermarket around here. I made my own in the blender and the pie turned out better than expected for the novice pie-maker that I am. I used ‘this’ recipe. Not too sweet and set perfectly. The rest of the pumpkin purée was used up nicely in a vegetable curry and the seeds in this recipe.

Hanging the washing out on the line today was a risky business – will I be racing out in half an hour to bring it all back in? The skies are grey, but a slip of blue is seen momentarily. I don’t want wet school uniform, tablecloths and towels strewn about the house. So I say a little no-rain prayer, and do a little no-rain dance.

I pick a handful of spinach for  lunch and rinse off the dirt and a tiny grey slug washes down the drain.

The butterfly I saw yesterday, may be the last of the year. It looked black under the leaden skies. I think it may have been a red admiral, and I just caught its underside. It was bittersweet to see this symbol of another dying year.

Today we have leftovers of mushroom, lentil and ale pie that I made yesterday from this recipe. So delicious it was too. I used the rest of the pastry for a quick blackberry and apple tart. The kind of autumnal fare that defines the season.

I am still getting used to the evenings. The darkness falling so early now, it feels like midnight at half past five in the afternoon. Maybe I’ll never get used to the speed at which this happens. I enjoy the dark evenings though. My library books are overdue so I will catch up with them this evening. I am reading Neil Gaiman’s short stories ‘Trigger Warning’ right now. He is a perfect writer for this time of year. What are you reading on these dark autumn evenings?

Berry Weird Weather

Rosehips

Blackberries

Autumn Leaves

These photos were taken a few weeks ago as the summer turned to Autumn. We’ve been blackberry picking and leaf collecting and appreciating this beautiful time of year.

Today however, it feels like we have gone back to summer. Now it is hot and humid as I sit reading the news about impending ex-hurricane now storm Ophelia. It should not get more than a bit windy where I am in the UK. Poor Ireland is forecast to receive the strongest winds and rain.

Right now here the light is a very strange yellow hue and everything is quite still. There is no birdsong. The humidity is high and I have a summer dress on in mid-October with the windows wide open, while all around me the ground is covered in fallen leaves. I remember the days when you could rely on October to be scarf and gloves and wellies weather. It’s weird to say the least.

If you want a giggle to cheer you up this odd Monday morning the Irish humour over hurricane Ophelia on Twitter is hilarious and had me in stitches.  ‘Always look on the bright side of life’… and take care xx

 

Darling Buds

Snow and hail in late April – I stand outside to feel the white flecks of ice fall and watch the tulips nod their forlorn heads at the onslaught.

High above them, the apple blossom is juxtaposed on the darkest grey of storm filled sky. Just those particular shades of pink and grey that complement each other perfectly.

Then, just a few days later, it is May, and with it comes the sun, and the lawnmowers, and the laughter of the neighbours’ children on their scooters.

The tulips pose regally, charming all who take the time to admire their velvet buds and blooms.

Noticing these small doses – healing doses – of reality. To capture a shape, or a sound, or a colour that lifts the spirit, if only for a moment.

Hope you are all well, and enjoy some healing moments this coming weekend.

Kim x

 

Nature’s Art

Watercolour Leaves

Years ago when I first started blogging, I did so because I had started to learn to draw and paint and I wanted to share my attempts as a way to encourage myself to keep going as well as sharing some of the beauty of nature as much as my beginning efforts allowed.

I’ve kind of veered away from making art over the last year, and I’ve noticed my life is the lesser for it. I miss collecting small treasures of leaves, acorns and stones from the garden or while walking and trying to present what I see with paper, line, shape, colour. Lately I’ve been returning to the practice. I have some beautiful books on botanical and natural history illustration by Rosie Martin that I am working through. It takes continual effort to not get frustrated with my lack of skill and to focus on the process, but I’m getting there.

I intend to return to sharing more of my drawings and paintings here, along with a few words in the form of a nature journal or a poem or short story. I’d like to keep notes on the weather, wildlife, flora, and other aspects of the natural world. There is so much happening that we miss if we don’t pay attention. And life’s too short not to pay attention.

Blackberry-Picking

Blackberries

Blackberry Picking
~ Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.


The day started cold so we wrapped ourselves in woollies and scarves. It was a little late in the season for berry-picking and I thought all the juiciest fruit might be long gone. It was clear many hands had been here before us, but we were lucky to come away with several bowlfuls.

The dry summer meant the berries were small and bead-like without the rain to plump them up. What remained were mostly ripe though. They fell from the branches as quick as we could catch them, hanging trapped in cobwebs or disappearing into the long grass. Trying not to get our fingers and arms scraped by the thorns we gathered as many as we could leaving the highest – a late summer feast for the birds.

One of my earliest memories is of blackberry-picking while staying with an aunt and uncle. It is a yearly tradition that’s followed me through life including taking my children as they grew up. It is one of those activities that reminds me how the years pass. The berries cycle through change – they flower, ripen and die – again and again, and yet still some things remain the same.

A couple of hours of picking and chatting to the passing dog-walkers we hardly noticed the sun breaking through the clouds and start to warm our backs. We shed some of our layers and set off home.

Unlike the narrator of Seamus’s poem, we collected our berries in tupperware pots. Not so aesthetically pleasing perhaps, but at least now the berries are washed and safely stowed in the freezer and not at risk of rotting.

If you’re looking for some recipes that will make a change from jam, and crumble and pie… nice though they are, of course… I’ve found a couple that I hope to try: this recipe for Blackberry Bread and this one for Traditional Blackberry Cobbler look simple and delicious. I’m off to go nurse my scratches.