I've been spending as much time as I can in the garden, determined to have a productive vegetable plot and colourful flower border this year. And when Cliff and I both have time off we go out for walks, visiting some of our favourite local places. Here are three
This is Ickworth, the estate surrounding the National Trust property. We visited at Easter when the car park, overflow car park and over-flow over-flow car park were heaving . . . families visiting to hunt for Easter Eggs. But beyond the formal gardens we had the views to ourselves.The magnificent oak trees are just coming into leaf.
Ash before Oak
we're in for a soak
Oak before Ash
we're in for splash
There were others along our route . . . little lambs skipping in the sunshine.
Another weather related rhyme . . .
Ne'er cast a clout
'til May be out
but is that the month of May or the May (or Hawthorn) blossom?
or this year it might be the PM? I think I'll hedge my bets and keep a warm sweater handy all year.
It was while walking in Lower Wood, just over the border in Cambridgeshire, that I noticed a Hawthorn in flower . . . but looking closer the flowers were large with red stems and the leaves had shallow rounded lobes.This is the Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata, you'll find it in ancient woodland. In medieval times this was the most abundant Hawthorn of the English countryside.
The Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is the usual Hawthorn hedging. Along the hedgerows near the wood the Common Hawthorn buds are about to bloom, you can see the leaves are divided into pointed lobes and the flower stems are green.
Probably my favourite Easter walk is along the Devil's Dyke, an Anglo-Saxon ditch and bank which was built 1300 years ago to defend the trackways along the narrow stretch of land lying between the Fens (before they were drained) and the uplands of West Suffolk (which were thickly wooded). Did a Saxon leader announce "I'm gonna build a big ditch" ?Last year the ditch along this section was dense with brambles, over winter it has been cleared, so we ventured down from the path along the bank top. Walking along the bottom the the ditch you can appreciate how much chalky earth had been dug and piled up . . . how many people did it take to do this? How long did it take?
The reason for my annual 'pilgrimage' to this spot is to see the Pasqueflowers, Pulsatilla vulgaris. This is one of the few places to see them growing in the wild, the little clumps of soft down covered feathery leaves cling to the steep bank. Unexpectedly exotic purple petals with a boss of golden stamens in the centre, look like fragments of some richly embroidered gown.
The quintessential flower of Spring in England is the Bluebell, though the true English Bluebell is now increasingly rare as it hybridises with the Spanish Bluebell.
We drove down to Hertfordshire to revisit a Bluebell wood that Cliff had seen while on a Rambling Club walk. It was well worth the trip and walk to find it . . . alongside the Chiltern Way south of Hitchin.
The density of flowers seems to flood the woodland with a blue so intense and shimmering.
On all our walks in April our boots remained mud-free. There's been no significant rain in most of the South-East of England for over 2 months. At times it has been unseasonably hot, 25C, and now a bitter Northerly wind is blowing an bringing night frosts. Today we had a hail shower!
The farmland is cracked and dry. We need rain.
Last Sunday I had a stall at Wyken Hall for the Plants & Crafts in the Garden event. I've attended for the past 2 years and it's one of my favourite markets.This year the sun shone! It was a busy day with 700 people coming through the gates.
I sold lots of cards and chatted with some lovely customers and fellow stallholders. And I bought myself some treats, a polka-dotty canvas hat made in Suffolk by Sally Wilding of Hedkase; an exquisite wire and beadwork bee brooch made by Susan North and a pair of blue and grey glass earrings by Clair Rice of HunnyBunny Glass.
I'm looking forward to getting out and about over the next Bank Holiday weekend and wearing my hat! Hope you all have a good May Day.