Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Blue Tit, Goldfinch......

On this day when Winter has returned, a hungry Blue Tit......

A Goldfinch
This feather-soft creature
Tail to head,
In golden yellow,
And black, and red.

A sip of water,
A twig to sit on,
A prong for nest,
The air to wing on.

A mate to love,
Some thistledown seed
Are all his joy, life,
Beauty, need.

by Walter de la Mare

...and a ginger bird watcher.

Monday, 29 March 2010

First Shoots After Rain

"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower............."
Dylan Thomas

There have been days of spring warmth, damp and intermittent rain. Walking around the garden this morning, and up on the wooded hill, there were signs everywhere of growth and new life. Nettle and Cleaver squeeze fragile stems and young leaf between the wooden slats of a compost bin. A self-sown Teazel with shining, prickled dark leaves, grows out of mossy soil amongst Ground Ivy and Wood Avens.

Hairy Bitter Cress, which will seed and multiply across the garden all through summer.

Waiting to be weeded away, Red Dead Nettle has early flowers on the soil of a raised garden bed.

This young Dock will not be staying here for long.

Primroses bloom amidst the ivy clad banks around a pond.

Frog spawn and Water Forget-Me-Not. Two days ago, in this small wildlife pond, I saw two beautiful, orange bellied common newts swimming and diving among the weeds. After such a harsh winter, it was good to see that they had survived to breed another year.

Young Foxgloves emerge from leaf-littered earth.

Up on the hill, New Forest ponies and a brown cow had found new foliage to feed on under the trees.

A Silver Birch sapling springs up through the leaf mould beneath its parent tree.

More foxgloves in the hedge bottom.

A mass of bluebell spears in the sheltered ground at the edge of a field.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Robin in the Rain

I watched him through the window,
A robin in the rain.
He splashed and flapped his feathers clean
Then shook himself again!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

How could I have missed this?

I must have walked past this old hawthorn tree thousands of times .So why, until this morning, have I never noticed that patch of yellow-green before? Maybe I had just slowed down enough to see..... I have a cold and Old Dog was a bit stiff in his legs today, so we ambled up amongst the bracken and found....


It was so warm in the morning here. The New Forest mares were sunbathing and drying their coats after a wet, misty night.

A bed amongst the bracken.

Under a tree, a solitary crocus. Maybe a garden escape?

Pussy willows in the lane are flowering now. The tree was buzzing with honey bees gathering nectar.

A bright beacon of spring, this hedgerow celandine opened to face the sun.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

First Spring Morning

First Spring Morning

Look! Look! The spring is come; O feel the gentle air,
That wanders through the boughs to burst
The thick buds everywhere!
The birds are glad to see
The high unclouded sun;
Winter is fled away, they sing,
The gay time is begun.

Adown the meadows green
Let us go dance and play,
And gather violets in the lane,
And ramble far away
To gather primroses,
That in the woodlands grow,
And hunt for oxslips, or if yet
The blades of bluebells show.

There the old woodman gruff
Hath half the coppice cut,
And weaves the hurdles all day long
Beside his willow hut.
We`ll steal on him, and then
Startle him, all with glee
Singing our song of winter fled
And summer soon to be.

by Robert Bridges

The words of this poem came to me unsummoned this morning. A poem learned in childhood at my village school in Hampshire. I remember learning just the first two stanzas and reciting them with the other children in my class. Perhaps the third stanza was thought unsuitable and likely to encourage mischief?

This morning marks the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring in 2010. At last, the long winter seems to be almost over. We have had two days of rain, but it was soft, mild rain. So different from the icy needles of rain brought in by the north winds of winter. Today, although the land is wet with puddles, there is soft sunshine and birdsong.

Emerging soft young leaves of the wild arum, the cuckoo pint.

Buds break open to reveal the male catkins of Salix matsudana, the twisted willow. I grew this tree from a cutting taken from a tree overhanging the hedge of a large country house on the hill.

Small Tete a Tete daffodils that always open before the larger daffodils break bud.

Vivid blues of a silver leafed Pulmonaria.

The last of the snowdrops.

At last, grass is beginning to grow in the lawns and paddocks.

The mole has returned.

Almost there.......

First flowers of Germander speedwell among foxglove seedlings.

One of the empty nests awaiting the return of the swallows. Today they will be on their way from Africa, flying northwards.

The Lion Pony ( named because he was once destined for the abbatoir and then to the lions at Longleat Safari Park) who will be three years old this spring, has grown a thick, fluffy coat this winter.

The Ginger Pony`s flaxen mane, washed clean by last night`s rain.

Young nettles emerge on the muck heap in the field.

The first dandelion flower of spring.

Sunlit moss and lichen on tree bark.

Out in the lane, heart shaped leaves of violets are showing on the ditch bank.

Wood sorrel , its leaves like those of clover, emerges from leaf mould on the bank.

A quiet, mild day of growth in the warming soil. A day when the air smells of new green foliage and wet earth, of spring. After a long and barren winter, a day of hope and possibilities.

Friday, 19 March 2010

A March Afternoon at Tintagel

On a bright, cold Sunday in early March, we drove the eighteen miles or so from Launceston, up to the North Atlantic Coast of Cornwall. The village of Tintagel lies at the head of a narrow valley where a fast running stream rushes down to the sea. There has been a settlement here at least since Roman times, as the rocky headland gives a fine vantage point out to sea, while the sheltered cove and beach would have offered a safe haven for seagoing ships.

Tintagel has been associated for centuries with the legend of King Arthur. It was here that he was said to have been born. The Victorian poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, renewed interest in this legendary past when he wrote and published his "Idylls of the King". It is also said to be the setting for the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde.

Today, there are the ruins of a fine 13th century castle on the clifftop of a rocky island at Tintagel cove. According to the English Heritage website, this medieval castle was built as the residence of Richard, Earl of Cornwall.

We had only a short time in Tintagel, so we decided to leave a castle visit for another occasion.
We began our afternoon with a light lunch at an ancient village inn, parts of which are four hundred years old. The barmaid told us that the inn is haunted. The room now used as a residents` lounge was once the village jail. There are marks in the floor where the bars of the jail were fixed.
A collection of ale measuring jugs hangs in the dining room of the inn. The jugs carry the name of a brewery and would have been used to measure out beer at the bars of inns and hotels across the land.
The building jutting out to the right is the site of the old village jail.

Looking up Tintagel`s main village road.

The Womens Institute (WI) hall. A meeting place for the village community.

Next to the WI Hall is the Old Post Office, which can be visited during the summer months. A Victorian post box is set into the wall.

Another village inn. The village shops now seem mostly to be gift shops for tourists.Their theme is very "Arthurian" !
As we started on our walk down to the sea, we noticed that crows had started to build a nest.

The stream that rushes down the "Vale of Avalon" towards the sea.

Rocky outcrops, and at last, a glimpse of blue water.

The 13th century keep of the clifftop castle at Tintagel.

A downward path towards the sea. Old mining buildings have been converted to a cafe and a visitors` centre . The castle remains the property of the Duchy of Cornwall ( held byPrince Charles) but is protected and managed by English Heritage.

A herringbone patterned wall built into the cliff beside the path, presumably to prevent erosion.

The cove and a small, sheltered beach. One of the caves is known as the legendary wizard Merlin`s Cave.
The stream rushed over the cliff edge and tumbles as a waterfall, down into the sea.

The area around Tintagel has been associated with mining tin and slate since Roman times. At Tintagel Cove there are reminders of slate mining and the methods used to transport the rock down the steep cliff faces and into waiting boats.
The sheltered cove where boats would have moored as they collected slate.

The footbridge across to the rocky island where Tintagel Castle stands. Was this the legendary Isle of Avalon?

Remains of the 19th century cast iron Donkey Winch that was used to lower slate down the cliffside and into waiting boats. The winch was apparently driven by a donkey, who was blindfolded to protect him from the sight of the sheer drop below. All day long, the donkey walked in a circle to drive the winch.

Information boards tell of the artefacts found at Tintagel Cove during archaeological explorations. Pottery from the 5th and 6th centuries has been found, along with fine glass fragments which may have originated in 7th century Spain. A piece of slate, inscribed in Latin, dates from around 1500 years ago.

Too soon, it was time to leave this beautiful and fascinating place. We turned back and walked uphill, through the steeply sided peaceful valley where, despite the cold, birdsong and young green plants were showed evidence of early spring. That evening, we had to return home to Hampshire across the darkening hills of Devon and Dorset. The evening sun was behind us as we drove eastwards past Dartmoor, where the high plateau glowed pink in the sunset light.