Tag Archives: L’Arche

Going viral XVII: come on in.

This was the sight that greeted me when I got to work at the Glebe this morning. My corona virus sanctioned exercise for the day: three hours of gardening, in sunshine or those cool shadows. And the first radishes awaiting attention.

The red flowers are campion, sown from a pack of wild flowers a few years ago. They will need sorting out at some stage, as they have become a haven for aphids. Let’s hope some aphid-eating bugs occupy the wooden bug house this year!

Going Viral XI: An Easter Garden

The ladies of Saint Mildred’s Church in Canterbury are mostly stuck at home and the Church is closed in any case, all of us praying at home. Today, however, I had to water the L’Arche Garden at St Mildred’s Glebe, so took the opportunity to thank the parish for their support over the years by making them an Easter garden. Note the cross, the cave, the cloths that were wrapped around His body; Rosemary for remembrance, a baptismal pool of water and pilgrimage cockle shells. Thank you Saint Mildred’s for taking us under your wing for all these years. And Happy Easter to all our readers. Let your joy be unconfined, wherever you find yourselves.

Going viral VI: Listen to the neighbours

Three years, give or take a week, I have been working at L’Arche Kent’s Glebe garden. The River Stour flows alongside; not a wide stream, so we can hear, and in winter and early spring, see across to the flats (apartments) opposite. We often hear snatches of conversation as people walk by, but today, for the first time, I became aware that people were talking from one balcony to another. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I was alone on our side, so perhaps I was hearing something that was often going on in the background, even in this age of secure outer front doors and entry phones. But I do think this neighbourliness was indeed something new. It was certainly heartening.

Mediæval Monsters

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Once Henry VIII let the forces of destruction loose on the churches of England all manner of beauties were lost to hammer blows. Think of Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury, but also spare a thought for the many little splendours that were smashed by self-righteous iconoclasts.

These fellows are no manner of beauty at all, but they avoided the storm, perhaps because they are out of the way. Even the tympanum – the semi-circular composition over the door – survived, though a similar one at nearby Patrixbourne did not escape. The figures around the edge provided designs for mosaics when L’Arche was based here in Barfrestone: my favourite was the gardener at the top, but the mermaid, just below Christ’s knee, was also popular. But we gave Archbishop Coggan a mosaic in green and mustardy gold, based on the happy, lower right-hand monster above.

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Big Bird Watch 2020, 2: in the shed.

At L’Arche Kent we cannot let a year go by without some of us joining in the BBC and RSPB’s* annual  Big Bird Watch – spending an hour at the Glebe,§ watching to see how many species and how many individuals call in to our feeding stations.

Nothing exotic here! The parakeets have not arrived yet, there must be plenty  of pickings in the Thanet seaside towns to encourage them to say.

But we saw seven sparrows at once and a pair of moorhens: as you see, we are at the riverside. We were quite surprised not to spot any wood pigeons, but when our photographer went to speak to someone at the other end of the garden he saw that they had been there all the time, behind the shed and out of sight. The rats were there all the time too, but then it was the first day of the Year of the Rat.

As ever, the afternoon ended with a shared meal, in thanks for a shared afternoon  enjoying creation.

*BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation, the radio and tv people; RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

§ Glebe: a plot of land for the priest to grow food on: a church allotment.

Sunflowers

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Last year, for reasons that now escape me, I took my beloved Brompton bike for a ride around Rye, across the border into Sussex, as a reflective part of my birthday celebration. I passed to the north of a field of sunflowers, which, being sun-worshippers, all had their backs to me.

This time, my seventieth year from heaven completed, we celebrated beneath these sunflowers at the L’Arche garden in Canterbury. This time, we were to the south of the blooms, and received the blessing of their faces, reflecting their master as they smiled upon us.

And a good time was had by all!

Growing up

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Thirty-odd years ago, the road was new, noisily slicing through orchards, swallowing some of the best growing land in Kent. Nevertheless, our children all loved the walk out of town, by lanes and footpath, through those orchards to the ford with its wooden bridge that memorably was once washed away.

We enjoyed hunting for blackberries, and knew where to find a couple of self-sown pear trees, one quite close to the busy road, and the odd crabapple tree.

Now, as in this photograph, the trees along the road have grown up. I was just cycling that way: the path joins the river path to make a head-clearing short circuit for cyclists or walkers. I was keeping an eye for windfalls (too early) and wild fruit. A few crabs in the bag, one pear tree had been flailed back, the other?

It used to be here, I thought, looking for pears at eye-level, used to orchard trees on dwarfing roots with their fruit readily harvestable. This tree was not modified in this way, and it was by its bark that I knew it. I was reminded of one we had at school, the size of a forest tree, its fruit inaccessible; it was a lovely tree with no branches below 2 metres. With no close neighbour it had developed into a green pyramid, but we ate very little of the fruit.

The tree I was looking at today had plenty of neighbours, some planted by the Highways Authority, but mostly self-sown willow and ash, all so close that their trunks were growing straight up to the light.

And the pears, with their lovely russet peel, were high up, out of reach. Oh well, we might be able to find one or two windfalls for the L’Arche cider project!

bridge.meadows.maycrabtree-rly-488x640The river path and a crabapple tree.

 

 

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And then …

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Abel was riding behind Grandad, across his favourite bridge in the old Tannery housing estate. A few yards on, he announced, ‘I saw two baby ducks.’ Grandad did not see them, but Abel missed out on the grey wagtail chick with its parents, (or was it two chicks with one parent?) by the Glebe. He missed our blackbird cock feeding a chick as big as himself on the scraps of fat fallen from the fatballs that the starlings have been telling their chicks all about, very noisily.

But we’ve all seen the baby robin who is already as tame as its parents, here perching on the bike’s handlebars. Spring is fun when you are nearly four or even nearly 70.

The Big Bird Watch 2019.

 

We, the half-barrel group of gardeners  at L’Arche Kent – had been looking forward to the Big Bird Watch since Christmas, so it was good to gather again at the Glebe to see who might fly in.

The moorhen just walked in from the river alongside, otherwise the rest flew in. Four robins were twice as many as we might have hoped for. The bird table must be shared territory, but one of them was prepared to chase all comers – except his mate – from the feeder by the river gate. Even the bird table was only grudgingly shared and there were a few ruffled feathers when three or four robins were there together: rights to the table had to be asserted!

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There were at least seven sparrows, that being the most we saw at any one time. I think that was more than last year. The highlight for L and G was seeing a pair of dunnocks. They managed the feeder but were happier pecking about on the ground. But two dunnocks were two more than last year, and they were too shy to present themselves for the photoshoot a couple of days later.

What else? blue tits, great tit, wood pigeon and collared doves, blackbirds, and a blue-green Kubaburra bird-man flapping his wings and frightening the others away.

Having fed the birds, the humans fed themselves and looked forward to a new season of gardening. Watch the weather and watch this space!

Photos: top, MMB; lower, Przemek Forek.

Hops

 

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!