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31 December: Lichen

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At the top of Saint Thomas’s Hill, behind the University, the old road dips down and climbs again to Blean Church, far enough from the main road to grow this bed of lichen on a tombstone. On a grey day it glows.

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Wild garlic and a surprise. 15.4.2018.

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One thing lead to another, and with A busy Easter, and then being in a city, we did not manage our garlic forage until today. A new spot that Mrs T had found the other day. Flowers were shining among the leaves here and there.

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But the surprise of the day was to discover a pheasant’s nest with a good dozen eggs in it. The cock was quite agitated not far away, no doubt his wife, too, was watching us. We gathered our leaves as quickly as possible and left them in peace. 8 jars of pesto are our reward!

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At the Edge of the City: Manchester.

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Even London eventually comes to an end, an edge, though it’s swallowing up more of the Kentish countryside and creeping ever nearer to Canterbury.

Recently Mrs T and I were at the southern edge of Manchester, in Didsbury, and walked away from the houses, across the main road, into Fletcher Moss Park. I expected Fletcher Moss to be a wetland, as in Chat Moss and other boggy areas around Manchester, but it is named after Mr Fletcher Moss, who gave his house and estate to the city of Manchester early last century.

The land does slope down to the River Mersey, and the lower areas were too wet for our city shod feet, so my expectations were not altogether dashed.

Before we arrived at the park, we crossed the tramway by this Poppy bridge, remembering the fallen of the Great War. Nearby children from three local schools have scattered poppy seed, to flower this summer, 100 years since the end of that war.

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After walking through Didsbury Park, well populated by young children and parents off to meet children from those three local schools, we came to the edge of Fletcher Moss Park, with its sports fields and fine benches including Rory’s Bench, covered in carved creatures, and a formidable lacrosse player. The game is more popular in these parts than most of England.

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Mr Moss’s garden had been a little neglected in recent times, until a voluntary group was formed to undertake many of the City Council’s responsibilities. We admired the hellebores in the beds near the house, including this one, thriving in the cold.

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Also near the house were witch hazel bushes, worth seeing silhouetted against the grey sky as well as in colour on the dark background of walls and branches. This computer cannot share the scent, clean and sharp.

 

More scent, sweeter this time, at ground level from snowdrops and oxlips, a hybrid between primroses and cowslips.

 

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A little further and we were at a corner of rainforest – well most English people know that if you can see the Pennine Hills from Manchester, it is going to rain; if you can’t see them, it must be raining.

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It wasn’t raining yet … and just around the corner a bank of heather – erica – a plant that shuns our alkaline soil in East Kent.

How’s this for early March?

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We wandered down to the next level; as I said, it was too muddy for city shoes to approach the river, but there was a clump of young willow ablaze in the afternoon light. I’m told by my colleagues at L’Arche that for weaving and basket making, the golden-green and the dark red not only contrast well when woven together, they have slightly different properties. I must learn more.

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And I must come back to Fletcher Moss next time I’m visiting family in Manchester, and see how it looks in other seasons. Many thanks to the volunteers who are helping the City council care for this treasure.

 

Spring is rising!

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We were hanging the bat box at L’Arche’s Glebe garden in Canterbury, and to do that Vince had to saw through two thin branches. I was footing the ladder, keeping still and keeping him safe.

Drips fell onto my hand as he handed down one of the branches: no rain, this was sap, the sycamore’s lifeblood. This is an invasive maple, and remembering the maple syrup farm I once visited in a Canadian March, I licked my hand. It was sweet!

I don’t think we are about to start tapping the sycamores, but Vincent recalled tasting birch syrup, and very tasty that was, he said.

An old cherry orchard near Canterbury in early Spring.

Gardening: a gift economy.

 

periwinkleJust before it got dark I went out with the secateurs to take a few cuttings from our periwinkle. It is excellent ground cover, smothering weeds around the roses but allowing the daffodils to burst through. Even in winter there are a few flowers around (the picture was taken in spring though).

Down at the L’Arche Glebe garden there is a patch of shady ground under a hedge where these cuttings can find a home. While I was gathering them I remembered Mabel, who gave me some from her garden across town. I didn’t hear of her death till after the burial. Her vicar said someone described her as ‘the soul of goodness’. I totally agree. She was an inspiring person to be working for, and deserves recognition at Canterbury Christ Church University, for which she did so much in its earliest years.

Even though none of the present L’Arche Community knew her, she did know about the community in its earliest days and thoroughly approved. Even Mabel, however, could not stretch herself any further to play any part – except to pray. She prayed, she encouraged, she shared her knowledge and skills freely. The soul of goodness indeed.

We enjoy her periwinkles, and tradescantia, and various other perennials, and I treasure her memory.

Do you remember? Probably not.

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This corner of Canterbury is called the Bomb Crater. Don’t dispute its right to that name, but …

As traditional as the name is its status as the venue of choice for sledging. The local hills, including the one from which it was gouged, may feel steep to climbing cyclists, but they are neither steep enough nor deep enough for sledging. The ‘Beast from the East’ weather system has given the children a few days off school – a gift such as most of them cannot remember – and many locals were enjoying the bomb crater when Mrs T and I walked by. Joy!

Who could begrudge their happiness by saying they should be in school, in uniform, when they can have a taste of winter?

I can remember snowball fights against the teachers – how many Health and Safety and Child Protection issues would that raise now?

Cold grey car park.

 

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Indeed I do walk this way most days (see post 26 December) but today it was head down into the wet mistiness. Until a song stopped me in my tracks: our all-year-round warbler, the blackcap, as grey as the day, apart from his black cap, happy to have survived the winter thus far.

And across the tracks, another calling in answer.

When I got home Mrs T announced that the frogs had begun to stir in the pond. Something is happening.