Five Hundred Miles or so!

Walks have always been an integral part of my life; since my youngest days I recall clambering over the rocks out on the islands in Sweden, scampering through the forests.

Moving to Yorkshire as a young girl the stunning beauty of the moors became the background to my days out. I revelled in trips out into the wilderness, losing myself in bracken taller than my young self, walking along the ridge of the moors where the heather meets the sky, gazing down upon the miniature stone buildings of the villages below. They seemed inconsequential compared to the might of nature.

A younger me out on the moors

This strangest of years has seen walks featuring more than ever in my life – this time though restricted to those from my doorstep. As soon as the stay-at-home order was issued in March, the U.K. experienced weeks of warm sunny weather and it was a blessing to head out for an hour a day then perfect to sit and enjoy the beauty of the garden.

In the last five months, I have covered (according to my phone app pedometer) over five hundred miles, discovering new routes, creating new ones. At times it felt like ground-hog day; wasn’t I only by this gate yesterday, this oak tree surely is wondering why it’s suddenly become so popular? Yet the walks and their vistas proved a tonic each and every time, always something refreshing to sparkle the heart and mind, particularly as the times of the outings varied from day to day.

A painted stones left along pathways

In March the days were chilly, a bite of winter in the wind, the fields barren and mud-ladened. I realised for the first time I would come to know in detail the surrounding landscape, the fields planted, harvested, the lakes full of clear water, then green with algae as summer arrived.

As August comes to an end a carpet of leaves forms a soft bed for my feet as I wander through the nature reserve; Autumn seems to have arrived earlier than ever. Already the fields are busy with their winter crop, the flowers almost all over and instead we spend the walks idling by the hedgerows, filling tubs with the juiciest of blackberries.

A spot of exotic blackberry picking!

When restrictions were slightly eased we headed out with excited anticipation to Marks Hall Arboretum and Gardens and as only members were allowed we relished having the place mostly to ourselves. (You may recall an earlier post about Marks Hall and its Sculpture Exhibition entitled Creative Energy )

I couldn’t stop smiling as we wandered through new landscape, new views, drinking up the sights with sheer joy. The lakes were lush with fish, geese gazed warily at us, standing like sentinels over their young.

Geese and their goslings at Marks Hall.

A Bug hotel caught my eye and I was only too happy and oblige by adding some leaves and sticks to the creation.

Bug Hotel at Marks Hall.

Peacocks never fail to enthral me and in spite of the lack of visitors over so many months, they were as still friendly and unbothered by us humans.

It was with childish joy I encountered ferns on a far-flung part of the estate. Reaching up I could barely touch the tops of them. Hooray! They were still taller than me!

Overjoyed at seeing ferns still taller than adult me!

Up ahead I glimpsed an ethereal sight, the wonder of the white trunks of eucalyptus trees beckoned me, like angel wings amongst the darkness of the other trees. Their bark was smooth and soft, I stroked it as if a pet, relishing in the unusual texture. I picked a leaf or two, inhaling the fresh exotic fragrance. I might not have physically travelled far but my imagination was halfway around the globe!

Eucalyptus trees in the distance

Bugs galore have graced us with their presence, and I’m sure they were always here. Was that a withered leaf on the bathroom floor? No, the most amazing of moths, which I think is called the Angle Shades. The shiniest of red in contrast to the black caught my attention with one bug, which I believe is the cinnabar moth. One lunchtime an admiral butterfly landed on my mother’s hat!

Our garden has been a solace and haven to me, more than ever! In the mornings I’ve had the time to greet the plants, stopped in my tracks in awe of the intricate details of the flowers and their petals.

Garden bluebells

I even say a quick shy hello to our resident troll tree … can you spot it in the acacia below.

Face of our Tree Troll!

It is invigorating to tend to the plants, bushes and trees, then afterwards enjoy relaxation and rest surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Finally, I often have a song ‘playing’ in a loop in my mind as I stride out across the countryside and since writing this review one particularly has stayed in my mind – it’s especially relevant as I worked out the miles walked these months. I first heard it as the soundtrack to one of my favourite films ‘Benny & Joon’. Enjoy the snippets of the film as you listen to ‘I Would Walk 500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers!

A WORLD OF ROSES

A proliferation of roses greets me every morning in the garden. Each one a blessing after the rather dismal and grey winter and spring here in the UK, and perhaps the damp weather aided the spectacular display. More than ever the rose bushes are in a glorious and abundant show of flowers with endless buds biding their time for their turn to bloom.

‘Queen of Sweden’ rose

As I view the flowers with awe, inspecting the new arrivals, snipping away those that have withered, I started to ponder about roses. How I’ve always taken them for granted yet know so little about them.

To accompany just some of my photos, particularly of my pink David Austin ‘Queen of Sweden’ which at one stage had over seventy buds, I’m also sharing some fun facts about roses which I encountered on my research.

  • There are over 100 different species of roses, and over a staggering 13,000 identifiable varieties!
  • Their cultivation began around 5000 years ago in Asia although the oldest fossil of roses dates back 35 millions years.
Hildesheim Cathedral Rosebush
  • The oldest surviving rose is over 1,000 years old and grows against the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. The roots of the rose bush survived when the cathedral was destroyed during bombings in World War II.
  • There are no black roses, although those referred to as such are in fact a dark red-crimson colour.
  • The buds of the tiniest rose is only the size of a grain of rice, whilst the largest rose, bred by a rose specialist in California, measures approximately 83 cm / 33 inches in diameter.
  • The leading exporter of roses is the Netherlands with 19,768 acres of land growing roses. Meanwhile, Bulgaria is famous for its Rose Valley which has for centuries produced up to 85% of the world’s rose oil.
Roses in Bulgaria
  • The world’s most expensive rose variety cost over £3 million / $5 million to cultivate during 15 years of work by the famous rose breeder David Austin. The ‘Juliet’ rose, with its neatly-arranged petals nestling folds within the heart of the bloom, is especially popular for weddings.
Bouquet of David Austin’s ‘Juliet’ roses
  • The ‘Shady Lady’, as it is unofficially known, or ‘Lady Banksia’, its official name, in Arizona is the world’s largest rose bush with a circumference of around 3.6 m / 12 feet. The seedling, brought over by a young bride from her native Scotland 134 years ago, has a canopy today that stretches over 800 square metres / 9,000 square feet and a forest of roses appear in Spring.
  • There are over 4,000 songs dedicated to roses and one that I’m most familiar is the moving ‘La Vie en Rose’. This has been covered by many artists and recently became known to a younger audience through its feature on the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. I discovered this wonderful version by the fabulously talented Louis Armstrong and it’s a delight to share here.

Finally, in case you want to see some more roses, here is a video of my ‘Queen of Sweden’ rose bush. Enjoy and listen out for the ice-cream van tune … one that often has me dashing inside for money and then eagerly queuing for a ’99-Flake’ (which alas costs more than 99 pence these days!)

Note: Some of you might have noticed that I have been less busy than usual with blogging, All is well, however as so often happens life has been extremely hectic in recent weeks. With time I will be visiting as before, but ask for you understanding if I am less active for a while.

SUNSHINE BLOSSOM

Two weeks ago only the daffodils braved the grey chill that clung all around. Trees barely seemed to be in bud and the occasional bulb peeked above the sodden ground, seeming to retreat as soon as they appeared.

What a difference a week makes with the welcome arrival of glorious Spring weather! As we basked under exceptional warm temperatures, the flowers in the garden woke with a blaze of colour. I cannot help but study them in awe and wonder, often whilst swinging on the wooden seat with hushed joy.

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Some of you I know still have a little (or a lot) of the ‘white stuff’, some are in Autumn, so I want to share just a few photos of the Spring flowers in my garden. As it is National Poetry Month, I’ve included part of a Spring poem to accompany the images.

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‘A sensitive plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

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‘And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

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‘The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.’

img_0719The above are a few stanzas from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem entitled ‘The Sensitive Plant’  (published 1820).

TRANSITION

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It’s less than a week since I arrived back from Sweden and the transition to everyday life has been harder than ever. The break was perfect on all levels and once home I realised that my body made it across the North Sea whilst my soul was still residing in the summer house, wandering blissfully on the land, clambering on the rocks.

Senetti with Petunias and Flowering Chives
Senetti with Petunias and Flowering Chives

To aid the unification of body and soul I set out to do what often helps in these circumstances. When I was younger that would have meant a splurge at a bookstore after hours of browsing. As an adult and keen gardener I headed to the local garden centre and spurred on by the rare warm sunshine the temperamental trolley was soon filled to the brim. Muttering at the trolley under my breath I steered the plants to the car and kept my fingers crossed for a sunny Sunday.

Senetti with Petunias
Senetti with Petunias

Today I woke to fair weather and keen to get started I left the housework and headed out to the garden. Quickly a new solace took hold of me, gently pulling or cutting the plants from the tight pots and planting with joy. Childlike glee swept over me as soil spilt onto the grass, the patio; little granules of compost sneaking their way into my shoes. One old and tired plant needed to be replaced and proved particularly stubborn on being pulled out. I tried digging it out with a trowel. No luck. Then it was time for the fork and with satisfaction I attacked the rock hard roots, hacking away! At last, I managed to replace it with a beautiful new flower. I could feel my spirits lift.

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A few hours later everything was in place…happily including my soul! 

Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla'
Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’

That is when the idea for this post struck me…another book-style post is partially written but just didn’t feel right at the moment and I had initially left comments on my last post on Bert Håge Häverö but turned them off at the last moment as I was dazed and exhausted upon my return to the UK, feeling overwhelmed to respond.

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Thank you all for being patient; I’m slowly catching up on your blogs and look forward to easing into normality in the coming week. Meanwhile, I want to finish with one poem featured on Brainpickings this morning. Maria Popova is a gifted writer and her articles are always a treat and consist of interesting, informative and thought-provoking essays on writers/artists/philosophers and it was:

‘Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.’ *

Today’s feature on poet Jane Hirshfield is particularly relevant as it was Earth Day yesterday. Enjoy.

ON THE FIFTH DAY
by Jane Hirshfield

On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
were silenced,
and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent. 

Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air. 

In gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,
of silence.

* From Maria Povova on https://www.brainpickings.org

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Senetti with Petunias
Senetti with Petunias

EASTER AWAKENING

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The plonk of a parcel landing on the hall floor startled me from my writing reverie and with the eagerness of a child I dashed downstairs and fetched the promised package – these wonderful Easter creations knitted by a dear friend. During the winter months she’s been beavering away in the evenings with family and two lively cats around her and finally her collection was complete! What a lovely and kind idea to share these chicks, bunnies and carrots with family and friends! What a beautiful way to spread Easter sunshine to us all! 

For two weeks I’ll be enjoying the peace and beauty of our ‘retreat’  in Sweden, away from the busy bustling world, barely connected to its digital being. 

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I look forward to walking the land in the cold mornings, the freshness of the air biting my lungs – a sting I welcome as I inhale the crisp ozone air scented from the surrounding pine forests. The dew on the grass will be bathed in sheer white frost, crackling underfoot and dotted around I’ll spot tracks of nighttime visitors of rabbits, badgers, foxes and deer. This early communion with nature has been sorely missed! 

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Whilst on holiday I will heed the words of Thalia Gust’s latest poem, rejuvenating in the beauty of the natural world, bringing my full awareness to the sights and sounds…leaving those ‘Musts’ behind.

MUSTS

What is a Must 

when Cherry blossoms shimmer,

What is a Must

when the skylark sings,

 

What is a Must

when garden turns

        yellow, white and blue;

 

What is a Must

when the wind plays in the Willow

What is a Must 

when I sit on favourite bench,

 

Wren and Robin nesting

in bushes that surround.

 

I left Musts behind today

threw them in the river.

© Thalia Gust

I hope to be on Twitter some, a little on WP but otherwise want to wish you all an enjoyable and peaceful Easter!

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A Gathering of Flowers

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Old books hold their own mystique; as if endowed with sacred properties, to be revered, protected, held in awe. I’m not talking about books from decades ago, rather those hundreds of years old. The Hortus Eystettensis is no exception.

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This first edition botanical book was printed in 1613 and made the news this week as it comes up for sale at Christie’s in London. It is not the humungous value of the book (an estimated £ 1.2 million / $ 1.7 million) that I find astonishing, rather the beauty, detail and colour which is so staggering.

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The drawings are as vivid and alluring as on the day they were created, the colours striking, bright.

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The florilegium (latin for A Gathering of Flowers) depicts over a 1,000 varieties of flowers found in the gardens of the Bishop of Eichstätt and was commissioned by the bishop. The botanist Basilius Besler created the book along with a team of gifted craftsmen and altogether the task took him sixteen years.

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The work generally reflects the four seasons, showing first the flowering and then the fruiting stages. There were two forms of the books. A cheaper black and white version with drawings and text for reference purposes as well as this more luxurious hand-coloured version on top quality paper without text.

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The Hortus Eystettensis is unique in that is changed the face of botanical art overnight. Previous botany books had concentrated on medicinal and culinary herbs, which were mostly depicted in a crude manner.  Besler’s book was of garden flowers, herbs and vegetables as well as exotic plants such as  arum lilies. The drawings were reproduced on high-quality engraved copper plates by expert craftsmen before printing and the reproductions are almost life-sized in exquisite detail. The layout was unusual too and modern in its concept and artistically pleasing. The pièce de résistance however is the beautiful and delicate hand-colouring throughout the book.

‘If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.’ Buddha

Information from Wikipedia and The Times.