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Where did that come from?

Yesterday, as you can see, it was raining when I got to the Garden, and it stayed that way all the time I was there. That’s not the reason for the post, though, but the plant the pictures show.

You’ll notice that it has no hint of green about it; this is because it is a parasite and cannot make its own chlorophyll. It derives this vital fluid from tapping into the roots of its host plant, which is ivy. It’s name is Orobanche hederae, or ivy broomrape.

When I was identifying this at the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland there were few records mapped in Kent, the nearest being at Eastry village 14 miles away. That of course does not mean there are none nearer than that, they may even be relatively common since ivy, the host plant, grows almost everywhere. I don’t think anyone has introduced it here on purpose, especially to the awkward corner it occupies, so the guess has to be that a highly favoured seed – they are like specks of dust – blew here from wherever the parent plant was growing. The third picture shows that there are more shoots to come, so it’s well established with us. Let’s hope we can keep it thriving.

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THIS spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering  rushes.
 I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.
 And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

from Amores Poems by D. H. Lawrence

It’s good to be amazed by Spring but I guess many of us will feel lost and bruised from being tossed about over the last year and more of living with the virus. We’ll take a walk today, Easter Monday, to warm ourselves at the green fires of Spring, like this bank of wild garlic.

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Finding your feet

It’s a few years since Abel found his feet, but the little boy in the park this morning was just getting used to his holding him up and getting him places. He took a step forward, away from his mother who was queuing for drinks from the little kiosk cafe. He was not expecting his step to ring out, but his foot landed on the metal cover for the fountain stop tap. A step back. Another step forward. Back and forth with a look of intelligent concentration, oblivious to his mother or anybody else or anything at all, except the sounds he was making with his feet. A special moment that he will not remember, but I will.

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Snow day for gardening

I had a job to do at the garden, a snowy weather sort of job, fixing warning notices for would-be tresspassers. Those who came over the summer always left a mess of takeaway containers.

It was a surprise to meet a couple of snow people outside the gate, but the church looked lovely in the snow, as did the garden, and the notices are in position and giving out their message, loud and clear. An enjoyable morning in a thaw, if only temporary.

The footprints are from Fox, Moorhen with the partly webbed toes, and robin, hopping along rather than walking.

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Lightening the garden’s darkness

In central Canterbury, between the Marlowe Theatre and a branch of the River Stour, a short new footpath was created a few years ago; it’s a useful off-road cut through for the family Turnstone making for home.

This dogwood (cornus) was cut to the ground a year ago. For another month it will be shining on grey days as well as sunny; then it may well be pruned hard again. I must check on my cuttings!

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Somewhere recently I saw these called Candlemas Lilies. That rang a distant, tinkling bell; it must have been in childhood. It’s easy to forget Candlemas (2 February) these days, Christmas disappears into the distance and normal life takes over.

But this year – this year, whatever your beliefs, take a Christian custom and make it your own. Dining alone, with partner or family, light a candle on the dining table to be a sign of hope in these dark days of covid.

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A proper Winter’s walk

On Sunday we walked through Fredville again, enjoying the frost both close-up and into the distance. After a stop at Barfrestone Church we walked a different path back to Nonnington with the sun behind us seeing off the last of the white – which hadn’t spoilt the sheep’s appetite. If you didn’t know that the Hurricane had been through here in 1987, you’d hardly guess it. The carefully planted mature trees lead the eye to look around and take in the beauty of the land; if some of the trees are past their best, there are smaller ones planted here and there, and we did see a tree nursery on another walk.

frozen Old Man’s Beard

The car park is now closed, which puts the bushes at the back further away from any human interference. The sparrows have caught on; when we were walking Abel home from school on the dankest, darkest afternoon of the year, they had gone to roost early, but they hadn’t gone quietly! I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying their chatter.

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Pleasure in the plot

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A book I return to is Come into the Garden, Cook, by Constance Spry who had connections with the village of Barefrestone, where L’Arche Kent began. I missed New Year’s Day, when I’d meant to post this, so here it is now, rather than waiting 360 days. Spry was writing in wartime to encourage creativity in cooking. She was also an artist in floristry, which shows through in this post. Enjoy your garden, and happy new year!

On this first day of January (1942) I will tell you what, in even an indifferent vegetable plot, gives pleasure. There is a splash of bright green like a rug thrown onto the brown earth lying next to rows of grey flags, just common or garden parsley and leeks. There’s a breadth of what might be grey-green tropical fern, but is, in fact, chou de Russie. (Russian kale) There’s grandeur and colour in rows of red cabbage and the purple decorative kale.

From Constance Spry, Come into the Garden, Cook, London, Dent, 1942, p11.

Photograph by Marc Ryckaert

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Green grows the lettuce, oh!

I walk this way a couple of times a week. Stour Street runs parallel to the river. Its old houses have post-war buildings in between them where bombs and at least one fire removed others. The street is narrow here; the 19th Century house has a strip of flagstones and a low wall but no front garden – except for this 25 cm square with its specimen of a lettuce. It brightened up a grey day!

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Almost the last preserve of 2020

A week ago we walked across the fields and found damsons, small, black, sour plums that were sweeter than they would have been a month ago. The label on the jam jars reads as follows, printed beneath this picture.

Foragers’ Final Flourish 
November 2020 
Damsons, crabs, and other hedgerow delicacies.

The good Mrs T had brought home the windfalls a while before that. Their bruises were romping away like a rugby forward on warfarin, so now there are jars of apple puree awaiting the winter. I’m always gratified to hear the click of the jar lids as the vacuum takes effect!

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The Art of the City

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As part of the Canterbury Festival, much pruned down this year, L’Arche Kent and others have produced an art trail or pilgrimage across the city. I’ve captured a few of the pictures, but the some of the photos are beset with reflections; if I’d used the flash it would have bounced off the windows, hiding the pictures, so here the windows are, mostly taken on a wet day.

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Are we inside looking out, or outside looking in? The reflection makes a different picture to what the artists intended!

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More from L’Arche Kent’s Rainbow artists, and in the next picture.

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Support for the National Health Service staff with the rainbows here.
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A window with a message, linked to the next, which showcases some recycled clothes. I saw the artist assembling this exhibit; he seemed to be enjoying herself and doubtless enjoyed the making of the party outfits. The arch is a ghost image from across the street.

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People’s experience of being locked down. Have a good read!

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Catching Lives is a local organisation for people who are homeless.
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Finally the front window of L’Arche Kent itself at the Saint Radigund’s Street Office! A show of talent.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little autumn pilgrimage across Canterbury. Do keep L’Arche, Catching Lives and all struggling artists in your prayers.

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Manna from heaven

It was a day that demanded a Sunday Walk. With foraging bags. Just as well, since the chestnuts are beginning to fall. Christmas preparations are under way. Small nuts will make stuffing, many are large enough to roast in the fire.

The local rector, Jo, was out foraging the day before. Her post reminded us to be grateful for God’s bounty. Amen to that, and how good to live in this part of the world! The chestnuts are a reminder of manna: we foragers have only to go out to gather them in – but they do not have to be eaten the same day.

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Just a light breakfast, please.

There was a spring in my step, despite the Autumn day and my Autumnal years. I had just been told that my cataract op had been successful, healing was proceeding according to expectations. And the sun came out.

Why not have fish and chips for lunch at Herne Bay clocktower? The shop recommended by Abel was open. I had to wait for the meal to be cooked, and it was all I could do to eat this ‘small’ portion, or so I thought. All of it was delicious.

This board advertising a light breakfast caught my rejuvenated eye. I’m not sure I’d have put that away even when I was doing hard manual work for a living! No doubt it will be as well cooked as the fish and someone will enjoy it, to the last little bean.

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There is always something to see. Behind a hedge, skirting the tarred footpath this array of silvery white caught the eye. Not flowers, but the seed heads of honesty, or lunaria to give its official name. Lunaria comes from the moon, of course, and I was told that honesty refers to the way the seeds can be seen in the silvery pods. Can any of us claim to have nothing to hide?

No need to hide this wild flower if it springs up in your garden! The pods will stay on the stem for most of winter, following stems of purple, pink or white flowers.

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1 June: Richard Jefferies I: Apparent indifference

walk5I was looking for something else when I came across some of the extracts I made from Richard Jefferies’ “The Gamekeeper at Home”, first published in 1878. Ian, a lad I once taught, had an ambition to become a keeper, and enjoyed reading this book together, despite the sometimes old-fashioned language. He had the capacity to stand and stare that Jefferies describes here. The book is available at Project Gutenberg.

Often and often, when standing in a meadow gateway partly hidden by the bushes, watching the woodpecker on the ant-hills, of whose eggs, too, the partridges are so fond (so that a good ant year, in which their nests are prolific, is also a good partridge year) you may, if you are still, hear a slight faint rustle in the hedge, and by-and-by a weasel will steal out. Seeing you he instantly pauses, elevates his head, and steadily gazes: move but your eyes and he is back in the hedge; remain quiet, still looking straight before you as if you saw nothing, and he will presently recover confidence, and actually cross the gateway almost under you.

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference.

1 September: Seasons moving on.

September! We are moving into Autumn, fruit, grain harvest, swelling pumpkins … return to school, reluctant scholars yet glad to see their friends. The tender vine suffered from the North’s cold wind last winter, but we have a few bunches of grapes swelling; are they to be food for humans or starlings? Here’s the XVII Century English-speaking Welsh poet, Henry Vaughan.

Who the violet doth love, 
Must seek her in the flow'ry grove, 
But never when the North's cold wind 
The russet fields with frost doth bind. 
If in the spring-time—to no end— 
The tender vine for grapes we bend, 
We shall find none, for only—still— 
Autumn doth the wine-press fill. 
Thus for all things—in the world's prime— 
The wise God seal'd their proper time.
St David’s Cathedral.

Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II.

31 August: Sunflowers

To sing break-heartedly of light
Like dying sunflowers
Gathering to themselves their life,
Defying that which is their source.
Small suns, we grasp your wantonness
And would reverse your death.
Our poorness seize your gold.

But go you must,
Dear small reflections
Of so great a God,
We would you stay.

Sheila Billingsley.

The sunflowers are indeed ‘gathering to themselves their life’ as Summer strolls into Autumn. The seed heads will turn to black, attracting the birds when they are hung up in the garden in weeks to come; we cannot seize their gold, but we can remember them, and save a few seeds to reflect God next year.

28 August: Beach Nuts?

There they were, not beech nuts but nuts on the beach. The beach is on Morecambe Bay, at the foot of a low limestone cliff; the nuts were hazels. We had seen the grey squirrels picking clusters of two or three nuts, taking one to eat on the spot while letting the rest fall to the ground, where the fearless forager could harvest them. I never expected to harvest nuts on the beach!

But what are you going to do with them? asks Mrs Turnstone. Christmas is coming …


A migrant at the Glebe

I was checking the beans at the Glebe when something else caught my eye; a newly hatched migrant hawker dragonfly, so new that the veins on its wings were not yet full of blood and traceable. The wings themselves seemed as delicate as a bubble but they would soon be taking this creature at high speed around the garden and riverbank, snapping up mosquitoes.

Welcome, Mr Dragonfly!

A Resident for the bug hotel

When we looked at the bug hotel the other day, we saw this scattering of wood dust, a sure sign that some creature has dug its way in, or more likely its way out of, one of the logs. We’ve also seen spiders’ webs, so it looks like some residents are ready to eat other residents.

I don’t fancy going on holiday to stay in an hotel like that!

Here is a post about the old and new bug hotels.

A Sunday walk from home

It was already warm at 10.00, so we took our walk early. I had a foraging bag in my pocket and spent a few minutes in the scented shade of a lime, or linden, tree, gathering the blossom to dry for tea – a soporific I’m told – and working alongside the bees, hive and humble.

I’m always reminded of a primary school teacher who insisted, heavy-handedly, that there were no green flowers, but see above; and that grass was always green. See above and below. Use your eyes!

Use your eyes? It was our ears alerted us to the peacock, but he is surprisingly well camouflaged in the dappled shade below. His markings effectively break up the outline of his body; he looks like part of the tree and part of the shadow.

Final picture, another bird whose camouflage is effective. This wood pigeon is sitting in next door’s birch tree; the passageway between the two human houses channels and increases whatever wind there may be. Pigeon is probably enjoying a gentle breeze.

The first ripe blackberry today, only a few days later than usual.

Sussex by the sea

Mrs Turnstone’s proposal of a few days in Sussex was inspired. We went to Pett Level, long a family favourite beach. The pebbles are relaxing to look at, relaxing to lie upon.

The south-facing beach can glow in many shades of blue;on this warm day, following rain, clouds were forming on shore and at sea.

Looking inland from the same spot; Romney Marsh is protected by the sea wall, so high that not even top deck bus passengers can sea the see from the road just below us. Romney Marsh sheep and red Sussex cattle grazing. A little along the coast and the dunes were held in place by a miniature forest, largely of elder. At the base we found stonecrop, poppies, ragged robin and viper’s bugloss.

In a wet woodland we were surrounded by orchids, yet more beautiful when seen in close-up. The resident wild boar did not disturb us.