Tag Archives: willow

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.

 

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A most unexpected contrast as I was cycling home from the supermarket. The low, wintry, afternoon sun is full on the bridge and the lady walking through, but the naked tree is black against the gold of the willow stems behind. The shadow of the bridge at work!

Cerura vinula? Mind the bugs don’t bite!

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No, it didn’t bite!

But Cerura vinula – it almost sounds like a scream! The first the adults knew about them was a screaming 5 year old, running to her mother, pointing to her chest, where 2 impressive caterpillars were firmly attached to her teeshirt.

Margaret had been hiding in the osier bed, and the caterpillars must have climbed on board from there. Perhaps they thought the pink shirt looked tasty.

Well, once the adults had established that the creatures were harmless to children the girls were able to enjoy them. Such a big caterpillar in a small palm, and such startling colour pattern. ideal camouflage among the leaves.

The adult is called a puss moth, but the caterpillar with its sinister forked tail and little hump is no sort of kitten at all.

Everyone was finally delighted with the cerurae!

photo credit

 

A moment observed

I can forgive myself for not recalling Edward Thomas in the small hours last night, but here he is, a century ago in Adlestrop, with blackbirds in the foreground and way away into the background. The birds’ greeting to the sun when the new dawn breaks here in Kent will be echoed, some 8 minutes later, by all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, as the sun’s rays reach out to them.

Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Willow, willow, willow

The self-sown willow in Mrs O’s garden is growing on the boundary. this time last year it was inaccessible behind waves of rampant brambles. I have cleared them over the months, although I see a new purple shoot every time I visit as the roots send buds to seek the sun and reclaim the land in leaf and thorn. But what about the willow?

i left it unpruned over the Winter to allow its early Spring flowering. The stems bearing pussy catkins were all too high up to contribute  to the display in Mrs O’s garden or her neighbours’, though they formed part of Mrs T’s Valentine’s bouquet, made up our family Easter Tree and graced the Paschal Candle and Baptismal Water at the Easter Vigil.

Willows, of course, are still exploited for making baskets and hurdles, Last May when I tackled the fallen willow in Wales, (See my post Si vis pacem, pare hortum) the new shoots were already evident, thrusting upwards like Mrs O’s brambles; they helped me determine where to make my cuts.

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No such work had ever been done here, so I brought all stems down to eye level, about six feet high.That was on Good Friday, and now, four weeks later, there are shoots appearing up and down the stems, and all reaching for the sky.

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Seeing such abundance, I almost regret not cutting lower down, but we’ll wait and see the year out as we are. As it happens, my pruning saw is at Miss Turnstone’s new house, where it has plenty to get its teeth into.

And maybe I should investigate basket weaving.

Far behind : 4

The pussy willow brought indoors as part of Mrs T’s Valentine’s tribute has begun bursting enthusiastically. As I was pruning this afternoon, I found many buds showing green but also disturbed a tan coloured moth which flew a couple of yards to cover. The snails I found seemed still crusted into their shells, so it must be ground-burrowing slugs that are dining already.