All At Sea

I went for a walk on Hilsborough today; a hill that looms between ourselves and the sea. It is National Trust land and a nature reserve, and at the top is an ancient hill fort, although to the untrained eye or uninformed this is not obvious. I was on my own, OH was otherwise employed doing something mysterious in the garden. It is usually best if I vacate the house when he is doing something mysterious, especially if it is in the garden.

I have walked up this hill many times, although possibly not as many as I should. Today the grass that flanked the accent was meadow-like, dotted with umbellifers and buzzing with life. And there were foxgloves, hosts of foxgloves. As I was unhindered by a co-walker, I headed off my normal route, down an unmarked path and into the woods. I have always felt at ease amongst trees. But as the way began to drop steeply a voice in my head whispered “never give up the high ground”. Naturally I ignored this whining and ventured down, down around a silty series of hairpin bends. “This would be great on a mountain bike”, I thought, which is odd as I have never even owned a bike and am a commensurate coward. Just bravado. It is as well I didn’t say that out loud or I would have had to suffer sniggers.

I passed gnarled thorn trees and banks of ferns, hopped over exposed roots and bedrock erupting effortlessly from the ground and admired lichen and wildflowers. Every so often glimpses of headland and sea were spied through the sycamores. It was still unfamiliar territory, with signposts that told me little except I was on a road to somewhere. And the “going down” was still “going down”. Which of course means “going up” at some point. Life is unfortunately like that. Eventually things began to look familiar and I was striding my way home. I hadn’t doubted it for a moment.

Earlier, before I set off on my expedition into the unknown, I reached a viewing point and looked out to sea. When I was a child my Dad worked in Canada and the USA for several six month stints and we would all miss him terribly when he was away. At the beach I would look out to sea and wave in what I imagined to be the right direction, as a reminder that his family were at home thinking of him. I always think of this when I stand facing the mighty ocean. And I still miss him.

Although this time I could just about glimpse Wales in the distance, so I waved to my Mum and John instead. Not together of course. That would be very scary.

Sweetness

I had a nice walk to the petrol station today.  “Why?” I hear you ask “Have you succumbed to your pyromaniacal urges once more?”.  No, that is firmly in the past.  The answer is quite simple.  Waiting there just for me, with my name on the paper wrapping, was a bunch of sweet peas.

These peas, along with a welcome mauve nigella and deepest blue larkspur, were grown by my friend Pat the Field.  Times are tough for flower growers at the moment; weddings cancelled, farmers markets no-more, florists closed.  Being a fine ‘make do and mend’ woman, Pat is selling her wares at the local petrol station, where I doubt they will linger long.  Her flowers are grown a couple of miles up the road, organically and with love.  It makes all the difference.

After an interesting walk back up the hill, battling a roaring gale, I managed to get them home without one flower head loss.  Now they are in our front room, doing a fine job of decorating and scenting the room.  By the way, before any derogatory comments, flower arranging is not my forte.  I am a graduate of the Bung It In school of floristry.

If you see locally grown flowers, please buy them, support our growers.  And yes, that is an order!

Bliss

I eventually made it to Marwood Hill Gardens.  This was after a well-documented previous attempt, which ended in misery and heart-break.  For those of you who missed this sorry tale, or would like to practice their schadenfreude technique, here it is again – Moaning Minnie – Part Two.

It was worth the wait.  Oh, it was definitely worth it.  The gardens are of course closed at the moment.  Which of course doesn’t mean work has stopped.  Working at appropriate distances, the bog garden was being cleared of invasive watercress, led by the never-knowingly-resting Malcolm.  The remaining 20 acres was free from human intruder.  That is until, armed with notepad and camera, I strode off to disturb the peace.  Unaccompanied, I wandered at will.  I dawdled, I took paths at a whim, I scuttled off grid, I sat, I considered and I smiled a great deal.  It was sheer bliss.  As always it was a magical place, made all the more so as I was liberty to do as I pleased.  Within reason of course.  You never know, there might have been a few sneaky CCTV cameras hidden within the lofty boughs of those champion trees.  I enjoy walking around gardens with friends, chatting about what we come across and a whole lot more, in fact I love it.  But this was different.  It was a private experience, meditative almost.  And it was a massive treat, and one with a great big shiny red cherry on top.

Although for the moment you aren’t able to visit the gardens, there is a glimmer of silver in this coronavirus cloud.   The Walled Garden Nursery has begun an on-line serve.  For those in easy driving distance, there is a Click and Collect scheme.  Those of you further afield courier deliveries are available.  Sorry to burden you with this temptation, but really, there is no hard in taking a quick look …..

Moaning Minnie – Part Two

Today didn’t pan out quite how expected and I only have myself to blame.  Today I was due to travel to Marwood Hill Gardens to interview and photograph for an upcoming article in Devon Life magazine.  Today I was to have wandered the gardens, free from the detritus of the public, to savour the beauty of these wonderful gardens free and unfettered.   I told people where I was going; my neighbour, Hero, my mum, anyone who cared or dared to listen.  I may have been a little smug.  That was, I believe, my downfall.

As yet innocent of my impending doom, I got up early and combed my hair whilst looking in the mirror at the same time.  I wore clean clothes, including my lucky knickers, and put a watch on for the first time in many weeks.  Off I set on my big adventure.

Then my car broke.  It didn’t strictly break down, it just made an alarming “boing, boing, boing” noise as I drove the 1/4 mile necessary before the nice recovery men would agree to help me.   I don’t know an awful lot about cars but it sounded like trouble to me.  It was as if I had run over Zebedee and he was trapped beneath.  I did check, just in case.  Which is how I yet again came to be loitering in my rescue place of choice, Tesco’s car park, waiting for a recovery vehicle.   Instead of wandering, possibly skipping, around the majesty of Marwood, I was eating a sun-aged winter mixture and wishing I hadn’t had that last cup of coffee, waiting for a knight in shining boiler suit to tow my car away.  In between Rescue Me and Being Resuced I had time to cherish a different kind of planting.  Please see above.

After the prognosis I decided, rather than take my rescuer’s offer of a lift home, to do a bit of shopping, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.   Little did I know that my normal calm demeanour was to be tested to the limit by the woman in front of me at the till.  She packed her groceries with all the urgency of a sloth, and twice asked a staff member to get her something she had forgotten, once for “you know, those little things you sprinkle on top of cappuccinos”.  All the while she catapulted sickly smiles at me whilst mouthing “I’m sorry” with a little giggle.  She then had a spillage in one of her bags, unseen by me and quite possibly imaginary, which had to be wiped up with all the drama of a wannabe soap opera diva.  I stood quietly, some might say too quietly, and I watched as others sped through adjacent tills.  And I was close.  Very close.

Then home with a loaded rucksack and two full carrier bags, not a cappuccino sprinkle in sight, to tell OH the wonderful news and impending doom bill.

My lucky knickers have been sacked.

 

Stitchwort

Our designated daily exercise took us up the moorland hill that looms malignly in view of our house.  In truth we skirted rather than climbed.  It was quiet, except for the exuberant birdlife, and the fresh air was soothing and much appreciated.  The wildflowers are being to shine, it is their time.  The celandine, the violets, the thorn, all beautiful.  They will be there whether or not we are there to appreciate them.  I rather like that thought.  It is all going on even if we aren’t at the party.  Fair play, I say.  Get on with it, do your thing.

Stitchwort is one of my favourite spring flowers.  I love its name and its simplicity.  Although I cared to see it, it didn’t give a fig whether I was there or not.  That is how it should be.

Niche

Whilst rejecting me, someone described my work as “niche”.  I imagine it was not meant as a compliment.  I laughed, then did my puzzled face and felt a bit sad.  My writing is me, which surely means I must also be niche.  No one had mentioned it before.  But it explains a lot.

The photo is a detail from Antony Gormley’s The Planets which circle a seating area outside The British Library.  Which is full of niche stuff.

Blue

Bideford Long Bridge in the morning sun.  All is calm.

A moment earlier I had been passed by an excitable crocodile of fluoresence as a stream of school kids walked past.  I heard one of them say, as they pointed to one of the moored boats, rusted and land-bound and in the process of slow refurbishment, “Is that the Titanic?”.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear the answer.

The Great Photo Sorting Season

The Great Photo Sorting Season is now open!

When I say “open” I mean “I’ve been thinking about it without doing anything terribly constructive”.

My first delve into the recent past is a stunning Iris ensata.  This photo was taken on a July visit to Marwood Hill Gardens with my pal Deb.  If you wish to reminisce along with me check out my post Friendship.  It was a wonderful day, although I really should have written down the name of this beauty.  I will have to pop back to find out.  As anyone who knows this garden will know, it won’t be a great hardship.

 

Renewal

Today we went for a walk.  This is an example of the crazy things I have got planned for my month long sabbatical.  It was nice.  We may well do it again.

One of the first things we saw was large fallen tree, a beech perhaps but difficult to positively identify without scrabbling and a festive excess of cheese and pringles has rendered this impossible.  It had crashed into another on its unfortunate descent, felling a further substantial specimen as it toppled.   We need more trees not less, I thought.  Although not surprised, the high winds and wet soil often add up to unstable footings, the sight did make me feel a bit sad.

Then, as we wandered around the garden where OH used to work, we came across plants that he had put in more than 7 years ago.  A three metre high Leptospermum grandiflorum, grown from seed I collected from Marwood Hill Gardens, a Crinodendron hookerianum now a fine looking large specimen, a dozen fruit trees all maturing well, a silver birch past the lanky teenage stage, amongst many others.  And I thought, a good job.   In our own way, as gardeners, we help to renew, to replant and to take up the slack.  We may not be as good as Mother Nature, but we do our best.

Trees fall, it is the nature of things.  If left to their own devices they may well rejuvenate from the rootball, any dead will provide a new ecosystem for all manner of birds and beasties, fungi and fauna, and ultimately will feed the soil it lies upon.  All is not lost.  Often a tragedy is not as fruitless as it first appears.

Which brings me in a very round about, the taxi driver from hell, way to the year ahead, which is shuffling in the wings as I type.   We must all do what we can to find positives amongst the many negatives.  To keep on doing what we can to make this a better world.  To spread the love.  To renew and replant, to take up the slack.  All is not lost.  I am hoping so anyway.

And I wish you all a fabulous 2020, filled with fulfilment and joy and of course love.  And if you feel so inclined, get out there and plant some things.