Tag Archives: woodpecker

GREEN RAIN by Mary Webb

Into the scented woods we’ll go,
And see the blackthorn swim in snow.
High above, in the budding leaves,
A brooding dove awakes and grieves;
The glades with mingled music stir,
And wildly laughs the woodpecker.
When blackthorn petals pearl the breeze,
There are the twisted hawthorn trees
Thick-set with buds, as clear and pale
As golden water or green hail —
As if a storm of rain had stood
Enchanted in the thorny wood,
And, hearing fairy voices call,
Hung poised, forgetting how to fall.

It was local patriotism for the Marches that first had me open a book by Mary Webb; later I found the poems, a literary treasure Mrs Turnstone shares. Though we are well away from Shropshire we have the Blackthorn in bloom and the buds of the hawthorn are as Mary Webb describes them, green raindrops, poised on the tips of the twigs. Don’t analyse the poem, enjoy it!

WT

PS – This links to the MS of the poem at Stanford University.

http://marywebb.stanford.edu/contacts/18561/

Far Behind ? – continued

hazel.jan2

Spring felt a long way off when I was waiting on Aylesham station with the cold wind sweeping across the field. But down at ground level, among the discarded beer cans and sweet wrappers, peeping from under heart-shaped leaves, a few violets, out of range of fingers or lens.

Nearer home, crossing the old Franciscan orchard, the hazel catkins were reflecting back the gold of the setting sun. On Abbot’s Hill the woodpecker was out of sight but well within earshot, drumming hard enough to give himself a headache but perhaps he’ll charm a hen. Valentine’s Day is said to be the birds’ wedding day. He’s getting into practice!

Winter Joys

Great spotted woodpecker: usually out of sight amidst the leaves so green;

Sanderlings, chasing the breaking ripples on the shore, pouncing on tasty morsels. See the RSPB site: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/s/sanderling/index.aspx .

I cherish the time I introduced these little creatures to a class of tough 10 and 11 year olds, who filled up with joyful laughter at their performance, dashing in and out of the water on Broadstairs beach. Thank you, Andrew,for setting us all off!

Cornish and Kentish foraging

29/10

I was beginning to fear that this year the chestnuts for the Christmas goose would have to be bought, as the opportunity to gather them in Kent never quite presented itself. I have not cycled home through the woods this autumn as work has taken me elsewhere. This meant that I missed my favourite crab tree as well.

Last year our god-daughters helped with the harvest on the side of Abbot’s Hill, and they roasted a few by our fire before taking their share home to London. But this year our chestnuts will be Cornish ones. As Patrick, an old school friend, lives in the Duchy with his wife Rosemarie, we took ourselves over to see them, and there along their footpath into town we soon gathered sufficient stuffing to satisfy the discerning Turnstone crew.

There’s just the small matter of peeling them to look forward to. Not good for the fingernails, but it’s a congenial task for a dark autumn evening with the music playing.

The real reason for visiting Truro, of course, was their company. We had not seen them since the time our daughters brought us together again: theirs graduated as a teacher, after teaching ours during her final practice at college; those dozen years – and a great many more – to catch up on; that gave us another blessed day.

Here is last year’s story:

Two lively god-daughters gave us a good excuse for a muddy Autumn walk up Abbott’s Hill. Like moths to a flame, welly boots were drawn to the squidgy puddles, but the girls’ mother had packed a change of clothes; she knows her children. Amy tumbled backwards with all the grace of a ballet-dancing eight-year-old. And did it again.

We had no time to float sticks down the stream; we were out hunting, not for rabbits or squirrels, but for another wild food – chestnuts.

On the way up to the spinney, Juliet was able to identify some of the trees, like the silver birch and oak. We saw the magpies and squirrels busily gathering acorns, but would they have left us any chestnuts? A green woodpecker was so intent on the acorn feast that it merely hopped a few yards from the path as we walked by. A magpie scolded us from the topmost branches; the squirrels just scrambled round the far side of the tree.

And chestnuts there were in plenty. Great fun was had in gathering them, rolling the spiky husks under the soles of our boots till the shiny fruit lay open to view in its soft bed. There was much critical appraisal of our harvest, and before the girls were bored, a respectable bagful was gathered.

Not living in London where such luxuries are regulated, we were able to light the fire and invite Juliet and Amy to take turns cooking the nuts on the roasting shovel brought back from a holiday in Wales. There were still plenty for them to take back home, while I cooked and froze the rest: our Christmas stuffing was guaranteed local produce!

Look at the Young Birds of the Air

Sometimes you actually do contrive to go around with your eyes open. This last Sunday morning was one of those times. On our way up Abbot’s Hill to church there were blackbird and robin babies around. The young blackbirds from our ivy were being shown where to find water in next-door’s blocked roof gutter; the robin hopped across our path by the college. Joy enough there, but there was a wren too.
Walking home, aside from ubiquitous rabbits, and the ducks and moorhens on the college pond, so beloved of Sunday afternoon walks when the children were little, the first sighting was of two green woodpeckers, parent and child perhaps, probing the ground softened after the storms overnight, at least until we came around the corner. The bird that flew up into a pond-side tree, however, was much less familiar: a young cuckoo, finally chased away to fend for itself by its exhausted foster-parents. Was it the child of the one who sang for us all day in May?
A hundred yards further, and the cries of crows above us drew Mrs Turnstone’s eye, then my own. There were three rooks, making a great deal of fuss, mobbing a buzzard who was certainly low to the ground and perhaps a little off his usual beat, or maybe it was another juvenile bird trying to make his way in the world. The crows won the day, at least in their own eyes; the big hawk soared away up the valley and the rooks returned to their own business, perhaps to contend with the woodpeckers who were already undulating their way back to the rough turf near the monument. The buzzard was soon out of sight above the wood; no doubt to find some unsuspecting victim before the day darkened. Was he bothered? Not much I suspect, but the rooks were happy to see the back of him.