Saturday, 26 June 2010

Down in the Meadow

The middle hours of a hot June afternoon. Down in the meadow, light breezes ripple the shining heads of ripening grass. Buttercups sprinkle the lush, green undergrass with discs of brightest yellow.

Out of the hedge grows a young elder bush, its flower heads flat plates of small star -like blossom that scents the air with a tanged , heady sweetness. Tall hawthorns, with May`s cream blossoms turned to clusters of green berries, droop overhead and give shade from a scorching sun.

A corner of the meadow, where a thicket of tall, flowering nettles grows out of an old, well-rotted muck heap. A family of young rabbits uses this nettle patch as a place to run away from danger. Foxes and buzzards often pass this way.

This week, two small tortoiseshell butterflies have appeared in the meadow not far from the nettles. This nettle patch would be a perfect place for them to lay their eggs.

Among the grasses growing here are soft Purple Fescue, tall Cocksfoot and tougher Rye Grass .

Small white flowers of Lesser Stitchwort hide in the undergrowth beneath the grasses.

The Ginger One is watching. Always, always hungry ( and always "Weight Watching"!) , he is longing for me to move a few posts of the electric fence further into the meadow. Buttercups are not good for horses, but our ponies never seem to eat them. With careful movements of their lips and muzzles, they push the buttercup plants aside and find the grass they are looking for.

Three of the New Forest Boys, watching me taking photographs as they doze in the sunshine.

Someone has lost a feather. The meadow is always alive with birds. A family of young starlings hide themselves in the long grass and feed on insects. Goldfinches and Siskins cling to sturdy grass stalks and eat the seeds. Sometimes, a green woodpecker rises out startled from the thick grass as I walk through on pathways made by rabbits and foxes. Over my head are the swooping families of swallows, soaring up and then dipping down to catch an insect over the wide grass.
Red clover, and some white, grows amongst the grasses. Feather leaved Yarrow is almost ready to flower.

On a thistle, black aphids cluster to suck sweet juices from the plant while an ant climbs amongst them to find an aphid fit to squeeze and "milk".

Half asleep, his head resting on the fence, the Grey One droops his eyelids. He and the Lion Pony, our rescued orphans from the spring of 2007, are three years old this year. Soon it will be time for the wheelbarrow to bring their evening feed and tonight I shall bring cream and spray to help them keep away the summer flies.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Welcome Change - a Summer`s Day in Brighton

I took these photographs two weeks ago, while we stayed for a few days in Brighton. Friends came to our house in the New Forest and let us escape the daily tasks of home and of caring for our animals. Life in the country is full and rewarding, but it is good to have a change sometimes.

Brighton is often called "London by the Sea". A busy and colourful city where the elegance of Regency architecture provides a backdrop for so many modern lives . Initially a fishing town on the Sussex coast, Brighton grew in popularity as a seaside "Watering Place" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sea bathing was said to be good for the health, as was drinking water from springs that emerge from clear chalk in the South Downs sloping up beyond the town.

When King George IV was a young man and the Prince of Wales, he came to love the fresh sea air of Brighton. He illegally married a beautiful Roman Catholic woman, Mrs Fitzherbert, and established a seaside home with her in Brighton. Later, in 1811, when his father ,George III, became incapacitated by ill health, the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent until the old king died. George IV gained the throne in 1820 and continued his long association with Brighton until his death in 1830.

It was during time of the Regency that Brighton grew from a simple fishing town into a grand and elegant resort. Fine, Classically inspired Regency architecture came to dominate the seafront and town houses that were seaside homes for the wealthy and the fashionable London people of the time.

Today, Brighton is alive and vibrant. Still fashionable with London exiles and as the site of two universities , Brighton is home to the young, to artists and writers and to a thriving Gay community. There is a good feeling of tolerance and the excitement of new ideas lives alongside the elegance of Brighton`s historical past.

On the seafront, the ornate Bandstand is lit up against dark night over the sea.

On a hot morning of bright light and blue sea, we walked down onto the crunching pebbles of Brighton beach. Looking westwards, the built-up coast stretches away towards Hove, Shoreham and Lancing across the bay.

Turning to the east and the Pier, where the morning beach was almost deserted.

A tall, Regency house overlooking the sea.

The rusting iron skeleton of the old pier, long since burned down and partially collapsed.

The Grand Hotel. A fine building that lives up to its name. It was here that the IRA exploded a bomb during the Conservative Party Conference of October 1984. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher , escaped with her life, but some other Party members were killed or seriously injured.

Cafes and stalls on the lower promenade, where their colourful awnings and the smell of fresh coffee began to attract early morning tourists.

Beachside stalls selling fresh shellfish.

The first ride of the morning for the Golden Gallopers.

Two swimmers heading out towards the pier..

Walking through narrow streets towards The Lanes, we passed this clothing shop where the windows housed a fascinating display of old, often antique, sewing machines.

Below are some views of The Lanes, where people wander for hours and browse in the small and interesting shops.

We stopped for coffee in the roof garden of a stylish , modern cafe . A fig tree provided shade from the hot, late morning sun.

Set in beautiful and natural gardens, Brighton Pavilion was built as the seaside "Pleasure Palace" of George IV and was later used as a seaside royal residence by King William IV and then by Queen Victoria. George, Prince of Wales commissioned Henry Holland to build the first Marine Pavilion in 1787. He then asked the Regency architect John Nash to enlarge and enhance the building, so that the opulent Brighton Pavilion was transformed between 1815 and 1823.

We toured the interior of the Pavilion and were amazed by the finery and extravagance of its decorative style. George IV was fascinated by things Chinese. Carving and gilding, painting and furniture design are all in the richly ornate style of "Chinoisery". A palace designed to dazzle and impress all who visited it.

Brighton and Hove City Council now own and conserve the Pavilion. It seemed fitting that the people of Brighton have now regained a sense of ownership of this special place. They were there in their summer crowds, to enjoy an afternoon in the lush and natural gardens once strolled in by English Kings and Queens on their seaside holidays.