Monday, 11 May 2020

From a Cornish Clifftop

          For me, this Wednesday will mark nine weeks of The Solitude. 
There is a longing to be Elsewhere. To see the sea again, to watch green hedges sweeping over Welsh hills. To follow clouds and the light changing on mountains. 

Some photos of another time, another place. The cliffs between Looe and Talland Bay. Spring 2018.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Golden Gorse

A few weeks ago, on a sunny spring afternoon, we could see the yellow-gold of gorse shining through gaps in the boundary hedge. We climbed over the gate and set off for a short walk around a nearby valley. 

A few New Forest ponies, looking well after early spring grass, grazed by the deserted road. 

There were signs of tree buds bursting, up on the Beacon Hill. 

A heathland pool, replenished by rain. 
Everywhere, the coconut scent of gorse. 

Around the corner....

..... we followed a narrow sandy path towards the valley bottom. 

Ponies grazed in the wet mire.

            With the country in Lockdown, the sky seemed bluer and the air cleaner.

I stopped to watch and listen.
           No noise of traffic. Just ponies pulling grass and munching. Just a stonechat, chit-chatting somewhere in the gorse nearby. 

   Up a twisting sandy track , I climbed into the woodland edge towards home.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

A Walk Through Winter Trees

At the end of the storms, everywhere was wet. Just days before, we had been told that those with health vulnerabilities and those of a certain age should prepare to self isolate. We needed to get out, to think and find some peace. 

There were signs of spring. Patches of celandines grew in wild corners of the garden. 

We walked for an hour or so in the woods on the Beacon Hill. 

Felled by the winter wet and rotted through, this old 'woodpecker tree ' had been a landmark in the lane. 

Its bark, studded with woodpecker holes, and its crumbling interior, waited now for insects and birds to feed. 

A wet lane and leafless trees, but still the bright moss shone on beech bark.

        In the valley, soaked bracken, gorse and distant trees stretched towards the coast.

        Holly, the understory of tall beech and oak, had been eaten to the browsing line by Forest ponies and deer. 

A "tunnel of green gloom" from the lane to the bright edge of the hill. 

From the hill fort`s flat topped grass, miles of heath  crossed into the misty distance. 

Time to turn round, past pools and down the wooded slopes. A winter wood on the edge of spring. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

In Days of Winter Storms

I took a long break from posting on this blog. Life became busy and full of time with friends, family, groups in our community, of feeling useful and being a part of things, of learning new hobbies and activities that I enjoyed.

Throughout recent years, I have still walked and taken photographs, but I learned to paint again ( after a fashion). There was little time left in a busy week.

Here we are now, many weeks into the Coronavirus Pandemic. For all of us, life has changed utterly. Thousands have been gravely ill. Death tolls rise and fall but each number is someone lost. Someone who was loved. A time of grief, unprecedented change, of an unknown future.

If we stay well, here in our Social Isolation of weeks that may stretch into many months, I shall post some photographs from these days, from our corner of this Locked Down world. Sometimes I may look back for photographs of freedom. When we had freedom to drive, to visit and to walk in other places. There is some consolation, knowing that these places we love are still there and that one day, maybe, we will have a chance to return.

The winter storms that came this year were harsh, cruel and wild. Flooding here was nothing compared to other parts of Britain, but we watched the changing skies and counted through the days and howling nights.

Evening sun on bracken and silver birch.

Clouds darkened and changed......

Winter sunsets painted the sky...

...and still the storm anvils came.

The land was steeped in water. Ditches , streams and rivers overflowed.

Inside, we waited for spring . Little knowing what would come in the wake of winter.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

May at Cranborne Manor Gardens

When I last visited Cranborne Manor, in 2016, it was a warm June day and the roses were at their finest (see earlier post). We had walked along mown paths, through long, grassy meadows where the wild flowers had mostly finished and had hoped to return one day, to see them in bloom.

May is the best time for wild flowers here, so we made the journey again through narrow Dorset lanes awash with cow parsley ( Queen Anne`s Lace), red campion , comfrey, wood avens and hawthorn blossom . Woods were in young leaf of so many vivid greens and hawthorn blossomed pale cream in the hedgerows.

At Cranborne, the Manor Gardens were quite different without their roses. There was a sense of waiting for the main event, yet the wild flower meadows beyond were blooming in profusion.

A Giant`s Chair sculpture in a hay meadow full of flowers.

 Wild flower meadows in afternoon sun.

A little weir, a pond and the clear stream that runs through them. I sat on the bank in cool grass, under a weeping willow, and watched moorhen chicks swimming and a pair of grey wagtails catching insects by the running water. 

Wild flower meadows of buttercup, yellow rattle, red clover, germander speedwell, vetch and salad burnet. Cow parsley fringed the steam. 

In the peaceful walled garden behind the Manor, a colour palette of pale mauves, white, silver and shades of green softened the wide borders. 

We found a long, formal garden between high walls, where herbaceous perennials were spaced with room to grow into their summer finery. A garden to return to when the wall-climbing roses flower again.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Winter Trees and Forest Ponies

We have had so many grey, dull days this winter. These photos were taken on a rare day of cold sunshine, before the snow and east winds came. A silver shine reflected on smooth beech trunks and a haze of young buds tipped twigs with light against the sky.

I caught the sparrow hawk on guard at the top of a horse chestnut. It often watches from this tree, in wait for unsuspecting small birds feeding on grass or at the garden bird table. I have seen it take a blackbird from the lawn in a wild, precise sweep down and across the grass. This week it has taken a wood pigeon in the field. A long stretch of grey feathers on the grass marks their passage and a pigeon`s last airborne fight for life.

Under the oaks and beeches, holly and ivy grow. Ivy flowers are heavy now with seed and provide welcome food for hungry birds, as well as dense, safe shelter in the worst days of winter, 

This holly on the heath was the last to lose its berries this year. Sweeter berries in the hedgerow hollies are cleared before Christmas, by blackbirds, the garden song thrushes and travelling flocks of mixed thrushes. Some hollies seem to bear more bitter fruit, which goes untouched until the birds are desperate with hunger. By the last days of our recent snow, this bitter holly had been stripped bare by redwings, fieldfares, mistle thrushes and song thrushes. Within days the berries were gone and the migrant birds had moved on. 

The old wilding apple trees survived another winter on the hill slopes, with their dense, gnarled branches showing silver green under years of lichen growth. 

Out in the lane, one Forest pony was happy to prune and eat the holly over a garden fence.  

Many of our village ponies were born in the gorse bushes on the hill, so we have known them since their earliest days. We are familiar to them as we walk and share the heathland spaces. This mare and her companion came over to me as I walked back from a walk around the hill. 

Back in the lane, a chestnut mare finished her drink and came across for a friendly word. 

A kind eye.....

In the old boundary hedge, oak and beech twisted and stretched their branches upwards under a cold, late winter sky.