Monday, 31 December 2012

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Winter Treat

Something we have never considered before - a winter break between Christmas and New Year.  We stayed at an old coaching inn at Snettisham for a couple of days.  Was this a good idea, considering the weather forecast for heavy rain and gales, yes it was.  The rain never materialised  until Saturday afternoon - and although the wind was strong enough to take you off your feet - it was reasonably mild.  Although windproof waterproof coats and fleeces were needed it was great to be out in the elements - being sandblasted!

After stopping off for turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches and a glass of ale at the Globe Hotel in Wells, we made our way down to the quay for a quick look, only to be surprised at how many holidaymakers had braved the elements.  We British are hardy folk, neither wind, nor rain, nor snow or blow will stop us visiting our lovely coastline in the depths of winter.

We then carried on with our journey back down the coast to Snettisham which is inland and separate from its beaches.We have often stopped for a meal at the Rose and Crown, but this was our first time of actually staying there.  We were shown to 'The Old Blue Room' which was as comfortable as can be, all the bars had great big log fires, crackling and snapping, the Inn was as warm as an oven - in fact, too warm, stripping off became an option.

Saturday was to be our full day at the coast, and we visited the RSPB Bird Reserve at Snettisham, which is like being at the edge of the world - in the distance you could see the Lincolnshire coastline.  The tide was way out leaving behind slate-coloured mudflats where the overwintering birds were picking their way through the mud looking for tasty morsels.  This part of the reserve is famous for the flocks of Golden Knot that come in their hundreds - and they did not fail us - up they all lifted in a great mass - to perform their wheeling dance - hard to photograph unfortunately.  If only the day had been sunny instead of grey and overcast - it would have been a sight to behold.

We also dropped by the dunes at Holme for a woodland walk and a pub lunch of French Onion Soup and Pate.

This morning, after breakfasting and packing, we headed out to the beach area for a walk - the temperature had dropped quite a lot but the morning was bright, and the strong winds pushed us onwards - turning round to head back to the car it hit us straight in the face, prickling our skin and making our eyes water.  The area behind the beach is wild and wonderful  full of rabbit holes and shingle where all kinds of coastal flowers grow in the summer.  After hibernating for most of the winter - I felt invigorated by our short break in the great outdoors and I have a feeling we may be doing this again next year  it was so enjoyable.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

That's It for another year - now breathe - it's Boxing Day!

The Christmas wrapping paper has gone into the recycling bin - the left over cockerel nestles safely with all the other Christmas dinner leftovers in the refridgerator -

 presents of books are waiting to be read,

 a beautiful tapestry waiting to be sown - a beautifully soft cashmere scarf  for keeping out the winter winds - a hanging bird bath

 complete with rusty iron birds is waiting for water - that's it - Christmas is over for another year.

Hyacinth bulbs planted in the hope of them blooming on Christmas Day - almost made it.

Now for Boxing Day - my favourite day of the year.  Dinner of cold meats, freshly baked ham and pickles of every description, lots of fresh salad and pork pie.   Perfect.  A day to relax after all the cooking and anticipation, watching repeats on tv and winding down.

And now a bright, sunny morning - thinking of taking a walk to get rid of all those Christmas calories.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Christmas Thank You

I don't think I'll have much time for posting between now and Christmas - so I would just like to say a big thank you to all my followers and to those who have left encouraging comments over the year - I do hope you all have a good Christmas.  See you next year, hopefully.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Summer Dreaming and Winter Solstice

My winter blues continue - this time of year affects my mood quite drastically - I am one of those people who need light - lots of it - so I look forward to the winter solstice - the turning of the year - when the daylight hours lengthen little by little - day by day.  The winter solstice was always celebrated by ancient peoples when the fear of starvation during the winter months was always close at hand. 

Looking back at my garden pictures over the last year has helped to lift my spirits - here are a few of my favourite photos.

12th June 2012 - Honesty, Sweet Rocket and Foxgloves
The garden was full to bursting in June after all the spring rains - I love the way everything is so prolific and jumbled together.

17th June 2012 - glorious abundance
June has got to be the best month in the garden - I love the overcrowded beds with purely accidental co-ordinated colours.

23rd June 2012 - the view from my kitchen window
9th July 2012
A collage of some of the years photos

I hope these photos have helped to lift your spirits too on a wet, gloomy winters day.  Roll on Spring.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Star of the Season - Robin Redbreast

I found this article in an old copy of the Country Living magazine which I thought I would share with you, about robins, as they are very much a part of the Christmas season.
Pinned Image
"When we think of Christmas, we think of the robin.  Its association with this festive time of year is an essential part of British life.  There are five and a half million robins in the UK and it is one of our most common birds with numbers remaining fairly stable.  They were hit by the harsh winter last year but a good breeding season has enabled them to recover.  As a regular visitor to the winter bird table and with a liquid warbling song, it's not surprising that the robin's cheery presence and its reputation as a domestic bird have seen it become a symbol of Christmas.

Pinned Image
But there is another connection: with the very notion of postage and so, specifically, with Christmas cards.  In Framley Parsonage, Anthony Trollope refers to the 'robin postman' - he had worked in the Post Office in 1860 when postmen wore a red coat.  The red uniforms showed the dirt, however, so were changed to dark blue with red facings a year later.  The nickname presumably vanished soon afterwards but not before Christmas cards had become popular - and the colour remains on letter boxes and Royal Mail vans.

Pinned Image
The robin's place around the homestead, and in English literature, it seems, is due to the combination of mild winters and a kindness towards birds.  After a lengthy correspondence and poll in The Times in 1960, it was elected to the status of Britain's national bird.  There scarcely seems to have been a time when it wasn't.
Their willingness to nest almost anywhere, for instance, famously in an unmade bed and a gardener's jacket pocket (built between breakfast and lunch).  Their enjoyment of human company (there are many stories of robins that live in churches, and join in the singing).  Their loyalty, their lack of pretence, their bad-weather sturdiness.  There is a hint of moral approval in our love of the birds, even a sense that we glimpse our own imagined national characteristics in their behaviour: the robin - named probably after the friendly sprite Robin Goodfellow - as an avian John Bull, a flighted oak tree.

Pinned Image

The robin's eyes have a lot to do with it, those pert piercing beads, 'like black dewdrops' as Frances Hodgson Burnett describes them in The Secret Garden.  They are side-mounted like most birds, but in that classic robinesque cock of the head they seem to look directly as us.  We are caught in the frankness of that gaze, confronted by an unafraid, unthreatening being as we rarely are by any other creature.  No wonder we melt, and feel for a moment that we both live in the same one world."

Adapted from Redbreast:  The robin in life and literature by Andrew Lack.  This book is an updated and extended version of Robin Redbreast, originally published in 1950 by Andrew's father, eminent ornithologist David Lack. amazon

On Christmas day I sit and think
Thoughts white as snow and black as ink
My nearest kinsman, turned a knave,
Robbed me of all that I could save.
When he was gone, and I was poor,
His sister yelped me from her door.

The Robin sings his Christmas song.
And no bird has a sweeter tongue.
God bless them all - my wife so true,
And pretty Robin Redbreast too.
God bless my kinsman far away,
And give his sister joy this day.

W.H.Davies from A Poets Calender (1927)

All the above taken from a Country Living article December 2010

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Living in England we have come to expect changeable weather - every day is different - you never know what to expect.  This was the view from the bedroom window yesterday - bright, clear and sunny but very cold.  This morning - totally different - freezing fog, heavy ground frost.

The mornings take forever to get light - this was taken at seven thirty.  Every morning I go up to the plot to feed my two sheep, put some hay down for them and break the ice on their water buckets.  Every morning without fail Alfie is waiting at the gate looking forward to his breakfast.

Look at that face - how could I refuse him?

After licking their bowls clean the sheep wander down into the frosted field, keeping to the hedgerow where it is a little more sheltered, and munching on nettles till the grass thaws out a little.

The horses in the field next door all have their winter coats on - this one looked expectantly at me hoping for tit-bits - I had none.

Tomorrow the weather will be different again - no two days the same - that is the joy of living in England - and I look forward to each and every one of them - mostly.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bringing a little of the outside inside

At this time of year I go into a kind of torpur - my hibernating instincts come to the fore and I hardly seem to leave the house.  Any visits to the garden consist of hurrying up the garden path to the compost bin, averting my eyes and carefully avoiding looking at the flower beds which need attention.  The not-so-statuesque seedheads which, according to most professional gardeners, should be left over winter to look beautiful when frosted, only look rather sad and soggy.

The only time I perk up is when it is time to look around the garden for foliage and berries to bring indoors for decorating the house for Christmas.  Luckily, I have a plethora of plants with berries and interesting foliage and lots of ivy  - you know, things that you wouldn't necessarily notice at any other time of year.

table decoration
For me, reds and greens epitomise Christmas and I like to make full use of what is available a couple of days prior.  I won't be bringing the foliage in too early as it tends to dry out fairly quickly in the warm conditions of the house.  A display along the mantlepiece of cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly and trailing ivy highlighted with the white flowers of the viburnam is a sight for sore eyes in the gloom of a dark winters' day.


So all I have to do now is assemble all my ingredients and start cooking up a decorative Christmas storm.

Pinned Image
When I am not Dreaming of a White Christmas I spend my time putting the house to rights, it gets sadly neglected over the summer gardening months, so out comes the feather duster and long reach brushes to try to de-cobweb all the corners where house spiders have most inconveniently built their little fly traps.  They seem to come back pretty frequently as though they are sticking their tongues out and saying 'catch me if you can'. 

I did manage to rally myself and get all last years seed packets out to see what needed ordering for this year, thankfully very little - it seems I went a bit overboard last year and still have plenty of everything, including half a dozen packets of radish seed!  Give me a rack of colourful seed packets and I seem to lose all reason.

A lot of reading gets done over the winter months and gardening books collected in order to inspire me for the coming gardening season.  I have lots of plans going round in my little brain for what I want to achieve but I realise that I actually need the winter wind-down in order to be able to appreciate the coming spring and the hectic schedule in front of me when the weather takes a turn for the better.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

In Praise of Ivy

I have a secret to confess - I have a 'thing' about ivy.  Yes, I know, boring old ivy, that has a bad reputation for eating into bricks and mortar and bringing your house tumbling down about your ears.  But I can't get enough of the stuff. 

I use it in the garden to disguise things - like fences (they don't rot so quickly when they have ivy as protection).

It gives a good background for other climbing plants

It grows anywhere and doesn't mind the shade

Here it has grown through the trellis and is starting to disguise the coal bunker

The new leaves are beautifully marked

and come in a variety of colours

I let it trail over the ground where it keeps the weeds down and acts as a mulch to keep plants moist.

The garden would look terribly bare without it, and yes, I do have it growing on the walls of the house, two trims a year keeps it in check.  The birds nest in it, as do insects - and the berries are a good food source for them.  I definitely wouldn't be without it (though I doubt that the beloved would agree when he has to get the ladders out to cut it back and take huge bags of clippings to the tip).  But then there are drawbacks with everything.