Tag Archives: Mrs Turnstone

Parallel lives

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Mrs T often comments that we are allowed to use the birds’ territory for our garden. Two examples of this today.

It was time to prune the apricot tree, but some of that must be postponed. As I cut through a shoot some 3 metres above the ground I saw that the fork leading to it was occupied by a brooding collared dove. I’d seen the nest before, but it was built while we were away for a few days, and I thought it had been abandoned as a silly place to build. It was a silly place to build, but it was not abandoned, so it will have to be respected. Unless she abandons it again.

The second example was the cock blackbird, leading one of his daughters around the garden, demonstrating the art of pecking food from the floor, or even aphids from the prunings of the apricot tree, while we sat at our evening meal. At least it is peaceful co-existence; neither doves nor blackbirds are aggressive thieves, unlike the Canada geese in the Royal Parks!

Baby blackbird from a previous summer.

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Shining Spurge

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Abel’s legs are getting longer and stronger, so that he can soon get out of sight in Larkey Valley Woods. (These were given to the people of Canterbury by a former Mayor, Frank Hooker.) 

Abel’s gone while I was telling you that! At least he has got the idea of following the waymark arrows but – the red and blue diverge ahead and we forgot to put his hi-vis jacket on. But he’s hiding somewhere …

Where’s my Grannie?

Well, you see why I only got one photo on this walk.

Spring is as active as Abel, and the green flowers of the spurge stood out against the dark leaves and shadow behind them. I once had a teacher who said there were no green flowers – she’d probably call them yellow, just to avoid being proven wrong!

Two or three days in the year.

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Yesterday Abel was coming away from the L’Arche Glebe garden when his eye was arrested by the round, tan-coloured husks beneath the hollow yew outside Saint Mildred’s church. They must really be discarded cones, since the yew is a conifer – with no recognisable cone. 

I was half reminded of something. Then today Mrs T and I went to see the cowslips near Brogdale, happily growing on the chalk. Another chalk-lover is the beech tree, one I loved to climb as a boy, and a mile or so on from the cowslip field our walk took us through a beech wood. Unlike this picture from last year, it was a grey day, the path was wet, but we could still appreciate Edward Thomas’s observation in The South Country.

 

Then in the early morning the air is still and warm, but so moist that there is a soul of coolness in the heat, and never before were the leaves of the sorrel and wood sanicle and woodruff, and the grey-green foliage and pallid yellow flowers of the large celandine, so fair. The sudden wren’s song is shrewd and sweet and banishes heaviness. The huge chestnut tree is flowering and full of bees. The parsley towers delicately in bloom. The beech boughs are encased in gliding crystal. The nettles, the millions of nettles in a bed, begin to smell of summer. In the calm and sweet air the turtle-doves murmur and the blackbirds sing — as if time were no more — over the mere.

The roads, nearly dry again, are now at their best, cool and yet luminous, and at their edges coloured rosy or golden brown by the sheddings of the beeches, those gloves out of which the leaves have forced their way, pinched and crumpled by the confinement. At the bend of a broad road descending under beeches these parallel lines of ruddy chaff give to two or three days in the year a special and exquisite loveliness, if the weather be alternately wet and bright and the long white roads and virgin beeches are a temptation.

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There is never enough traffic on this bridleway to order the husks  into parallel lines, but there they are, colouring the path. The nettles are in evidence ahead; we would discern the white of cow parsley if we were closer, but the pale celandine was not yet in flower here. (The bright, low-growing, lesser celandine is all but finished.)

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Close to, the russet husks are indeed cool and luminous. Who would have said that brown could shine?

Thank you Edward Thomas!

Wild garlic and a surprise. 15.4.2018.

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One thing lead to another, and with A busy Easter, and then being in a city, we did not manage our garlic forage until today. A new spot that Mrs T had found the other day. Flowers were shining among the leaves here and there.

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But the surprise of the day was to discover a pheasant’s nest with a good dozen eggs in it. The cock was quite agitated not far away, no doubt his wife, too, was watching us. We gathered our leaves as quickly as possible and left them in peace. 8 jars of pesto are our reward!

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At the Edge of the City: Manchester.

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Even London eventually comes to an end, an edge, though it’s swallowing up more of the Kentish countryside and creeping ever nearer to Canterbury.

Recently Mrs T and I were at the southern edge of Manchester, in Didsbury, and walked away from the houses, across the main road, into Fletcher Moss Park. I expected Fletcher Moss to be a wetland, as in Chat Moss and other boggy areas around Manchester, but it is named after Mr Fletcher Moss, who gave his house and estate to the city of Manchester early last century.

The land does slope down to the River Mersey, and the lower areas were too wet for our city shod feet, so my expectations were not altogether dashed.

Before we arrived at the park, we crossed the tramway by this Poppy bridge, remembering the fallen of the Great War. Nearby children from three local schools have scattered poppy seed, to flower this summer, 100 years since the end of that war.

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After walking through Didsbury Park, well populated by young children and parents off to meet children from those three local schools, we came to the edge of Fletcher Moss Park, with its sports fields and fine benches including Rory’s Bench, covered in carved creatures, and a formidable lacrosse player. The game is more popular in these parts than most of England.

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Mr Moss’s garden had been a little neglected in recent times, until a voluntary group was formed to undertake many of the City Council’s responsibilities. We admired the hellebores in the beds near the house, including this one, thriving in the cold.

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Also near the house were witch hazel bushes, worth seeing silhouetted against the grey sky as well as in colour on the dark background of walls and branches. This computer cannot share the scent, clean and sharp.

 

More scent, sweeter this time, at ground level from snowdrops and oxlips, a hybrid between primroses and cowslips.

 

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A little further and we were at a corner of rainforest – well most English people know that if you can see the Pennine Hills from Manchester, it is going to rain; if you can’t see them, it must be raining.

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It wasn’t raining yet … and just around the corner a bank of heather – erica – a plant that shuns our alkaline soil in East Kent.

How’s this for early March?

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We wandered down to the next level; as I said, it was too muddy for city shoes to approach the river, but there was a clump of young willow ablaze in the afternoon light. I’m told by my colleagues at L’Arche that for weaving and basket making, the golden-green and the dark red not only contrast well when woven together, they have slightly different properties. I must learn more.

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And I must come back to Fletcher Moss next time I’m visiting family in Manchester, and see how it looks in other seasons. Many thanks to the volunteers who are helping the City council care for this treasure.

 

Steals on the ear…

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Rainbow weather this morning: the birds seem to sing more clearly in the rain.

When we were in Rome at the beginning of last month, Mrs T rejoiced to hear a cuckoo in the Botanical Gardens; I was uplifted by the sight and sound of a patrol of swifts, screaming along the Via Aurelia.

It was a month before I saw and heard the swifts in Canterbury, and only this morning, at six o’clock, did I hear the cuckoo. He may have been some distance away, as even with the back door open I could not hear him an hour and a half later.

But he was there, insistently, when the city was quiet. Perhaps he did not care to compete with the Cathedral’s great bell Dunstan, calling the faithful to prayer!

No-one to kiss.

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Winter, and I had a window seat on the train to work. Along a quarter mile or so where the rails run near the river it was plain that some trees were not infested with ivy but with mistletoe, not yet enough for a commercial harvest – unlike these trees in Oxford. Has the University or the College considered such an income stream? There was one small clump in a tree above the railway cutting, close enough to warrant a kiss – but Mrs Turnstone was five miles away in the supermarket.