Author Archives: willturnstone

Birds doing something unexpected

 

I often stop at the spot where George saw the Kingfisher; it’s where the river turns left, away from the Causeway in Canterbury towards Kingsmead. I have seen egrets and herons along there, but today there was a pair of strange looking — ducks? coots? No, neither of those, but these birds were in the water, or rather the shallows, well away from the road. It took a moment to realise they were wood pigeons, cooling off in the heat.

Maybe they got a taste for cold water when flying for Noah in the ark? Alfie the collie used to stand or lie in the river or a puddle to cool down, but he didn’t have to worry about feathers getting waterlogged. These pigeons had found just the spot where the clean water was flowing over a stony bed, and just the right depth. Alfie, however, was more than happy to lie in mud and bring it indoors afterwards.

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A Summer Walk in the Downs

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It’s a while since you were invited to join us for a walk. This one started at the Timber Batts pub in Bodsham and took us by field paths and along country roads, back to our starting point. Boots on!

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Almost at once we are into ripening grain crops with wild flowers blooming along the field margins where the path runs.

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Along this lane we met no traffic except a stoat.

 

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The farm buildings at the top of the hill included this old shed, which looks like a WWII prefabricated building.

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Kent chalkland is not the most dramatic scenery, but the contours lie easy on the eye. Civilisation means that electricity cables are never far away though. But they make life possible for the farmers and other locals.

 

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A few sprigs of wild marjoram (oregano) will help flavour an omelette.

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Scabious on one side of the lane, poppies on the other, wild clematis, ‘traveller’s joy’ in the hedge. Happy memories of using this for our daughter’s wedding last summer.

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Along another lane, we passed this old house, the oaken frame raised off the damp ground on a stone plinth.

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Then into the shade of a belt of trees, which still smells of wild garlic underfoot.

 

 

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The path now is partly loose flint, but naked chalk in places; both surfaces require careful walking, the chalk can be very slippery when wet. This dry summer is another matter.

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Back in the lanes, where honeysuckle and willow herb brighten the verges. But this is working countryside.

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And Saint James’s church at Elmstead is a working church, though 900 years and more old, with a ring of six bells in this unique tower. The church was open.

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And this lady was waiting to greet visitors.

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From the church we went back to the Timber Batts, and after a welcome Disco Cider (made from Kentish Disco-very apples) we attended the Bodsham School Fete; a good day out altogether!

 

 

Contrasts

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Two hours to negotiate the roadworks and rush hour around Stockport on the way into Manchester. And they say the most disruptive roadworks have not yet started!

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Wandering around Saddleworth in the rain, to find a bilberry patch destroyed in favour of a park with lawns, when other parks are reverting to brambles, if not bilberry patches!

A fire in July, and very welcome too.

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Sunshine in Manchester, sipping beer in the open air in Albert Square with live music and interesting sandwiches.

A wren outside the window of a holiday cottage in nearby Derbyshire. But will the farmyard cock waken us in the morning?

Signs of Summer

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As I walked along Canterbury’s  Saint Peter’s Street on Saturday I saw a sure sign of Summer. Not the gaggles of French and Dutch teenagers squeezing into the pound shops, nor the obedient American and Japanese tourists following their guides’ uplifted, unopened, umbrellas.

No, It was the cherry lady from Faversham, but selling gooseberries this time. She promised ‘cherries next week’.

I bought gooseberries.

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That afternoon as I was cycling home from visiting friends,  I sought out the elder flowers needed to make the best gooseberry fool and gooseberry jam. Along the Crab and Winkle cycle path they were as unpolluted as anywhere.

Mrs T made the fool, and froze some puree to make more when summer is mere memory. It all went. Polish friends could not get enough of it, nor could I. Maybe the spare puree won’t make it till Christmas!

And I made the jam.

But yesterday there were cherries in town.

Summertime can begin!

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Si vis pacem pare hortum II, or Willow, willow, willow III

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If you care to return to old posts – Si Vis Pacem Pare Hortum  and Willow, willow willow, you’ll find the day four years ago that  I rescued this bench from being demolished by a willow tree falling across it.

The bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms,  may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.

A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!

And a job well done, if I say so myself.

At this table

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A meal in the garden in the company of friends is a great blessing, one Mrs T and I shared this week in Wales. Good local food well cooked. Our friend’s granddaughter has a chef for a brother and seems to share his love for cooking – one passed down the generations!

There was talk of the brother as well, of course, of cabbages and kings. The lad takes a pride in his work, to the extent that he has persuaded his bosses to buy butcher’s meat and fresh fruit and vegetables so that he could prepare better meals at no extra cost. He is feeding young people on activity holidays.

‘And now, instead of frozen, ground down whatever and jars of sauce, they have spaghetti Bolognese with proper, lean minced beef and sauce from scratch.’

…….

I hope you enjoy a few outdoor meals this summer, and that the cooks enjoy them as well as the diners. The next day was bread and cheese for just the two of us, halfway up a hill in Herefordshire. That was enjoyable too: we’d walked up an appetite!