Tag Archives: L’Arche

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!

watch the dunnock

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!

 

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.