Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wild Flowers of the Fields

At this time in the summer, there are areas of grassland that are not being grazed. Sometimes a small field is allowed to rest until autumn. In the bigger meadow, we did not spray the buttercups this year. Nowadays, I hate to see the spraying of old pastures with herbicide of any kind. As the buttercups finish flowering, they gradually die back and grasses and other flowers begin to grow once again. We use an electric fence which is gradually moved through the pasture over several months. This is a good way to allow wild plants to grow and to prevent the ponies from getting too fat.

Above, is a small wild geranium, growing on bare soil at the edge of the meadow. The flower is smaller than Herb Robert. It may be Common Storksbill, but I`m not convinced about the leaves.

Below is Common Centaury, which is not common at all! I have occasionally seen it growing on roadsides in the New Forest, but one year it suddenly appeared in our field and the little colony has grown, year upon year. There is a legend that it was used by Centaurs ( half man-half horse creatures of Greek mythology) as a herb to heal the wounds of battle. I have noticed that the ponies and wild rabbits do not seem to eat it, so the taste must be bitter.

In the long grass at the end of the Golden Pony`s field, are a few tall Meadow Thistles. When her electric fence reaches the thistles, she will eat them with relish, prickles and all, For now, they are host to honey bees, bumble bees and ..........

....hover flies.

Living on the edge.

Meadow grasses are seeding now.

At the field edge there are Scarlet Pimpernels among the short grasses. They were known as the Poor Man`s Weather Vane. When the flowers are open, the weather is fine. If the flowers are closed, it is raining, or about to!

A single plant of Prostate St John`s Wort, with its tiny yellow flowers. A new arrival this year.

Self heal flowers against a backdrop of Ground Ivy leaves at the hedge bottom. The ground ivy flowered its small purple blooms in the spring.

Here it comes again....More Ragwort rosette appear. We dig out traces of this poisonous plant every week, but it always seems to be one step ahead. The roadsides of Hampshire are covered in its yellow flowers this summer, so more pasture will be seeded by its airborne seeds next year.

Smooth Sow Thistle in flower.

A wild mallow.

A Gatekeeper butterfly on white clover...

...and red clover growing as the buttercups die back.

In the bonfire patch, where the earth was scorched bare by a bonfire in spring, Yarrow is thriving.....

....and so are thistles. Small flocks of goldfinches have been feeding on their seeds this week.

Last, but not least, Redshank, with its dark spotted leaves, brightens a muddy corner where Fat Hen also grows.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

July Evening Over Poole Bay

It has been a week of rain, grey skies and blustery winds. A clifftop BBQ had been planned for months, so we were relieved to see the clouds clear by evening, when friends gathered at a small community hall, where the terrace overlooks Poole Bay.

Along the sandy beach towards the east, white buildings shone on the clifftops at Bournemouth and the main Pier jutted out over calm water.

The sun had sunk behind the Purbeck Hills and the sky softened to shades of pink.... a rosy tint to the chalk of Old Harry Rocks and Ballard Down in the west.

People walked , cycled and ran along beach and promenade. On the clifftop, we found formal beds of flowers...........

....and a backdrop of wild gorse, heather and bramble clinging to the cliff sides in the wooded chine.

On the western tip of the Isle of Wight, chalk on the Needles and the steep cliffs of Tennyson Down glowed pink.

The light began to slip away......... we climbed down steep steps to the sandy beach.

Holes were dug, by hand ........ we heard sand martins twitter past on their way to roost in nest holes in the cliffs.

We found paw prints....

.......watched the pink sky darken to grey....

....while clear, shore water , still as a mirror, reflected the soft-wool clouds.

The Big Balloon, in the Winter Gardens, rose into the sky above the town. What a night to see the Bay from a basket on a tethered, gas filled balloon!

Sunset sky and waves.....


...of clouds......... day ends........

...and the lights of the weekending town stretch away along the night-dark cliffs.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Foal in the Lane

River of Stones

What is it in the foal that stirs something strong, a needing to protect? Soft fluff on the coat? Long, gangling legs and a half-grown, flicking tail? Ears, back and forth, searching sounds for hidden threat and the eyes, widened as I pass?

While her mother rested in the shade, a filly foal explored the gravel lane. Climbing out of a shallow ditch, she found sweet grass beneath a low bramble on the bank. Learning as she sniffed beneath barbed branches, probing with a muzzle soft as silk to search out young, wet shoots of green.

Monday, 18 July 2011

In a Surrey Hills Town - a Walk Between Showers

On Saturday, we drove across country into Surrey. This was a day to meet new friends and to spend time in Haslemere Educational Museum, discovering more about the people of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who began the Haslemere Peasant Arts and Industries.

I was born in this lovely old Surrey town, My father grew up there and my parents met there. Although I grew up near the Hampshire coast, we regularly visited my grandparents. The Haslemere lanes and heathlands became familiar childhood walks.

At the end of a busy afternoon, when the rain had stopped at last, we walked in a part of the town that was once so familiar to me. Just above the railway station in Haslemere, two almost parallel roads wind along the side of a hill. There are modern buildings now, including new apartment blocks and houses built in old meadows and gardens, but the old cottages and the beautiful Arts and Crafts houses still remain. In some areas, little has changed since the houses were first built in the mid to late nineteenth century, following the advent of the railway line from London.

Terraces of Victorian cottages look across the valley.

The Old Studio that was once the tapestry and embroidery workshop of the Haslemere Peasant Industries.........

....and the Dye House where natural dyes were prepared to colour the textiles.

The work buildings above and the houses below were built by politician Joseph King and designed by the Arts and Crafts architect, Francis Troup, so that this small area became a hive of craft industry in the early twentieth century.

The artist Godfrey Blount and his wife Ethel (nee Hine), working with Ethel`s sister Maude King, led this artistic and philanthropic community which promoted a belief in living a good, hard working life in the country, producing well made traditional crafts that reflected the beauty of the natural surroundings. This venture was undoubtedly a reaction to the mass urbanisation and the industrialisation of manufacturing in Victorian England.

The Haslemere Peasant Industries and their place in the Arts and Crafts movement are currently being explored in this well researched and interesting blog

As we explored the lanes, I had a memory of a wooded footpath with steps climbing the hill. We followed a signpost and found the shaded path up to the road where my grandparents used to live. It must be almost forty years since I last walked on this hill, but I seemed to remember each twist and turn. So many of the old, pan-tiled houses were still familiar. This once loved place was still there, locked in my memory.

On the higher road, there were views across red rooftops and gardens, to the wooded hills of Weydown, on the other side of the valley where the railway runs.

A glimpse of a church across the valley.

We walked downhill towards the station. There on the high bank of the hill, stood the tall Victorian house where my father spent his teenage years and where my grandparents lived until they retired. This was the house where they spent nights in the cellar during the Blitz, as German bombers flew above the town on their way to London. This was the house where my mother stayed before I was born, and where I came home as a new born baby.

As a child, I remember the spacious rooms. The living room that looked out over the valley. The steam trains puffing their way through gaps in the trees. The sound of a long-case clock, chiming the hours. My grandparents slept in the room with the big window, underneath the gable. Their bedroom smelled of eau de cologne and lavender.

On the ground floor was the kitchen with a big black range, and a scullery behind with stone sinks and a door that led out to a steep back garden. There was a door into the cellar, where logs were stored and and it was dark and cold. Steep stairs led down into the darkness. I would not go down there alone.

Now, the house has been divided into flats. Outside, there is evidence of building work going on. There was once a horse chestnut tree that grew when Dad, as a boy, had planted a conker. It was felled years ago and a new house was squashed into the side garden where he used to play.