Tag Archives: L’Arche



Kent is famous for hops, and next weekend is the hop festival in nearby Faversham. We have a bine growing over the willow arch at the Glebe garden of L’Arche Kent in Canterbury. L’Arche is a community of people with and without learning disabilities. I enjoy the hops in their natural glory as well. With some care and attention they should be producing really useful amounts in years to come.

And maybe that’s true of all of us too!



Another unexpected bird.

Unexpected? Always unexpected: a flash of blue along the river by the Glebe and you only realise when he’s gone – that was the kingfisher!

That was yesterday; twenty years ago I was walking George home from school when we stopped to watch the fish in the shallows of the river. The kingfisher dived right at his feet, a metre and a half down to the water and emerged, fish in beak, before realising he had an audience, and made himself scarce.

George instantly became a bird watcher.

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.

Designer Snail

designer snail

Working at the Glebe, working with flowers, we have ample opportunity to appreciate the little things. Like this snail, this ‘designer snail’ as Anne called it. Those stripes would make this shell a treasure if found on a Red Sea beach, but this snail was in the wrong place, eating the wrong plants …

I remember, years ago, reading an article where a science teacher was desperately trying to account for the very different shell patterns of this species in terms of Darwinian evolution; some even have no stripes at all. She seemed to be saying that they must be of some evolutionary benefit or they would not still exist.

Well, the humans at the Glebe admired the creature. But don’t tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses that we called it a designer snail!

Golden Rod

Come September, come the golden rod, a Canadian invader, as beautiful in its way as the buddleia, taking up residence wherever a seed can find moisture and root room.

Golden Rod at least stays at ground level, but its creeping roots know how to expand its territory. I allow myself and Mrs Turnstone, an annual bouquet from the abandoned railway allotments, where it shines against the brambles and black-barked willow.

I gather it in part as a salutary reminder, since for all its beauty, I found this a depressing flower for many years, though not because it heralds Autumn and shorter, darker days. Rather I see it in my inward eye, dancing in the breeze across the prairies as the ‘Canadian’ train took me from my summer at the L’Arche community in Edmonton, Alberta, back to Toronto and so on to my half-completed college course in Hull, Yorkshire, a grey city under a grey sky, its feet in grey mud.

Unfair to Hull, I know, with all the trees along Princes Avenue and Pearson Park, but there would be no gophers to share my lunchtime sandwiches on Cottingham Road, while I had found the humans in Edmonton every bit as charming as the wildlife. Leaving them I was torn, knowing I had to finish my course, and unconsoled by horror stories of winter mornings with temperatures of 40O below.

Summer had been warm and happy despite the attentions of the carnivorous Albertan insect life, feasting on fresh blood. Hull would be grey and wet and smelling of smoked haddock. (One of my favourite fish, but on a plate, and not in the air all day.)

The golden rod waved me goodbye, from all the wild places, from across the prairies, from the shores of Lake Superior and even from the last miles into Toronto and the airport. Golden days; and now my heart can enjoy the memory and dance with the golden rod.