This is the River Tame, brown with peat, passing through Uppermill, Saddleworth, last week. What looks like a weir is a set of stepping stones. I thought such things were imaginary when I was little, as they tended to appear in the sort of story books our teachers thought we should like.
Now there’s a set I can walk across any time I visit my mother.
Well, not every time, as you can see. But there is a bridge very near by, so no great hardship involved.
And yet the river has been known to rise much higher than this, when the upstream flood plain is saturated, and the rain keeps on falling. The bridge then cannot accommodate all the water that pours down; it tries to find other ways through. People get the sandbags out.
It rains a lot in Saddleworth!
So thank heaven the powers that be seem finally to have decided against covering the flood plain with concrete and buildings for a new school!
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!
The Holy of Holies refers of course to the innermost chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem – and before that in the tent that went through the desert with the Israelites. Blake reminded us that God is present in a grain of sand; here is Chesterton meeting him on a Spring morning. These cowslips are growing in pastureland, where sheep will safely graze later in the year. We were told that the farmer seeded the field with wild flowers. Thank you to him!
‘Elder father, though thine eyes Shine with hoary mysteries, Canst thou tell what in the heart Of a cowslip blossom lies?’
‘Smaller than all lives that be, Secret as the deepest sea, Stands a little house of seeds, Like an elfin’s granary,
‘Speller of the stones and weeds, Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds, Tell me what is in the heart Of the smallest of the seeds.’
‘God Almighty, and with Him Cherubim and Seraphim, Filling all eternity— Adonai Elohim.’
A miner turned gardener taught me the old Yorkshire adage: After breakfast, walk a mile, after dinner, rest a while. I was reminded of this the other morning when I met a friend in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. I knew she had had knee surgery but was able to congratulate her on how well she was walking. ‘Oh, yes, thank you. It’s going well. We walked back from Chartham the other morning.’
Chartham is three miles from the city centre.
This column tends to celebrate the natural world, but time today to praise the work of orthopædic surgeons and all the scientists, engineers and technical staff as well as the nurses who enable them to do such fine work.
Three miles from Canterbury in another direction, another fine walk.