Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dreaming of Summer

I'm sure I am not alone in feeling that I have had quite enough of this winter now so I decided that I would think of some of the good things that summer will eventually bring. One of the best things about summer is being able to sit outside in the garden on a perfect summer afternoon. I'm afraid I'm not usually so industrious as the young woman in Arthur Claude Strachan's lovely painting, usually I have a book or some stitching to occupy me. I love this picture of the higgledy piggledy cottage with its thatched roof and the garden full of old-fashioned flowers. You can feel the peace of the scene, the fantail doves cooing contentedly as they search for scraps,the warmth of the afternoon sun and the sound of bees buzzing among the flowers.

On summer afternoons I'm often working in my garden rather than sitting in it of course. As Rudyard Kipling so aptly said
'Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-" Oh, how beautiful," and sitting in the shade'.

Midsummer brings the old-fashioned roses that I love and fills the garden with their wonderful perfumes. This one is Ferdinand Pichard and my summer dreams include some additions this year, a replacement for Reine des Violettes, which I sadly lost last year, along with Louise Odier and Rosa Mundi.

The fields and hedgerows will hopefully be filled with butterflies and all the myriad other insects that contribute to the beauties of our countryside each in their own way. It may surprise some of you to learn that wasps are among those that contribute. I'm decidedly wary of them having been stung several times with progressively worse reactions each time it happens. Nevertheless they are very useful as they not only pollinate the plants they visit in search of nectar but they also feed their young on many of the insects that we regard as pests. I have to say that another wasp sting isn't actually among my summer dreams though:)

Many creatures are dismissed as 'being no use' when in fact their place in the great web of life is a vital one. I've never forgotten visiting a rehab centre for wild animals at Moholoholo in South Africa and listening to Brian Jones explaining the vital role which that much maligned bird the vulture plays. They are scavengers who dispose quickly of the decaying carcases of wild animals and by doing this prevent the spread of diseases like anthrax and rabies. There are different types of vultures with varying kinds of beaks that do different jobs from tearing open the carcase to picking the bones clean. The less than flattering photo above shows me with a vulture and, believe me, when it lands on your arm looking for its piece of meat you know its there! Clicking will enlarge it so that you can really see the vulture and the huge leather glove I'm wearing. I had to use my left hand to support the other arm so that I could take the weight of the vulture as it landed on me. However I digress, this is not the stuff of pleasant English summer afternoons!

On my doorstep is the Peak District and on lovely summer days I can walk in beautiful places like Edale where the moors are purple with the flowering heather......

.....and it's so hot that dogs need to paddle in moorland streams and quench their thirst with great draughts of cool water and....

.....sheep seek the shade of the drystone walls so typical of this area.

Summer brings weeks spent at our little house on the Lancashire coast where we can wander along the Wyre Estuary watching all the wide variety of birdlife that lives in this special environment of mudflats and saltmarsh. There are specialized wild flowers growing here too - sea asters, sea lavender, glasswort and many others.

An hour's drive and we are in the Lake District with wonderful scenery, delightful villages and interesting places to visit such as Beatrix Potter's old home Hill Top...

...the fantastic topiary gardens of Levens Hall

and lovely old towns like Kirkby Lonsdale which is one of my favourite places, it is full of small,individual and interesting shops and not a chain store in sight. It also has some superb scenery including a view painted by J M W Turner (the artist who painted so many marvellous seascapes including The Fighting Temeraire). It is now known as Ruskin's View as the Victorian art critic John Ruskin called it one of the finest views in England.

This my version and...

...this is the painting by J.M.W.Turner. The river in the picture is the Lune whose name originates in the Celtic word for clear or pure.

Another pleasure of summer is visiting some of the wonderful gardens that we have in this country, the one above is Fanshawgate Hall which is less than a 10 minute drive from where I live. It's privately owned and dates back in parts to the 13th century. The owners, Mr and Mrs Ramsden, open the garden several times each summer and it's well worth seeing.

For me one of the most enjoyable things about summer is that I spend time in Suffolk visiting my younger son and his family which also gives me the chance to explore all the superb medieval churches that Suffolk has in abundance. This one is the church of St Peter and St Paul in Lavenham.

Suffolk is also awash with beautiful villages,ancient black and white timbered houses and chocolate box cottages that are thatched and painted pink or ochre. This is part of the main street in Kersey.

Best of all there is miles and miles of empty space where you can walk for miles without seeing anything other than wild flowers, birds and, if you are lucky, a hare. There's so much to look forward to - and I'll bet you've almost forgotten it's still winter:)


Kate said...

Just beautiful - thank you for a glimpse of warmer seasons.

MoominMamma said...

Hello Rowan!
What a lovely post, I can almost here the bumble bees 'bumbling' around the garden. ;)
That rose is just incredible! I've never seen anything like that before, it almost doesn't look real.
I agree about each living thing having a place, I think it's amazing to think about how each thing effects another and all the cycles that go on.
I would really like to see Beatrix Potter's 'Hill Top' some day, she has been a firm favourite since I was a little one, and now my daughter is just as in love with the stories.

You mentioned in one of your comments to me about making a biscuit base for Millionaires Shortbread - do you make that like you would a cheesecake base, with crushed digestives or malt biscuits? I'm intrigued!

Kath x

MoominMamma said...

:D Thanks for your reply!
I've got digestives on my shopping list now.
That is how I would make a cheesecake base, I'm very excited to see how it tastes with the carmel (caramel - never sure!) and chocolate, very yummy I bet. Just great with a cup of tea.

Dog Trot Farm said...

Oh how lovely to be able to walk the moors, gardens, historic churches, "Hill Top," oh dear Hill Top, to be able to smell a rose without Japanese beetles devouring them. To me this is a wonderful summer's eve dream. Then again, a plane ticket and a local tour guide- now that is all a girl really needs to fulfill a dream.

Hildred and Charles said...

Lovely summery post, - I'm off to dream of birds and bees and grasses and wild flowers and a pristine garden with nothing invasive or weedy in it.... Your pictures are very beautiful and remind me of our visit many years ago to the Peak District.

Thimbleanna said...

Oh Rowan! Such beautiful pictures -- I so wish I could spend a summer in England -- it's just gorgeous there. Thanks for the hint of spring and that which is just around the corner!!!

PG said...

I ALMOST forgot it was still cold and grey outside...I am just happy that spring is almost here, but thank you for the lovely pictures!

Lynda (Granny K) said...

I think we are all ready for some warm, sunny days! Lovely post Rowan.

Roy said...

A lovely Post Rowan. We can only dream about such things at the moment. I am trying to remember what it was like to chase after a particular butterfly that I wanted to photograph.?

Your word verification was "REEPA" which reminds me of our current weather "GRIM."

Bovey Belle said...

Thank you for the lovely day out in Summer, and so many interesting things. I shall be back again and again to look at this as feeling a bit "blue" at the moment so need cheering up!

Wanda said...

Yes, you managed to make me forget winter, with your beautiful post Rowan! I would love to be sitting in the summer shade shelling peas, as in Strachan's lovely painting.

You have left me longing to walk in a field of Queen's Lace,Rowan Please, Hurry all I will be thinking today!

Mac n' Janet said...

Wonderful blog, I'm waiting for Spring, once Summer comes to coastal Georgia all one can do it sip sweet tea and look at the garden.

lila said...

Your post certainly makes me want to visit rural England in the summertime!!!!

Val said...

Its hard to believe as I sit watching the spring sunshine that a winter storm with high winds is forecast tonight. But the English weather is never static or boring - but I do long for warmer days! Thanks for the reminders.

Janet said...

Summer seems a lot more pleasant where you are than it is here! I look forward to spring and autumn and even winter but seldom do I look forward to our summers. Your photos are always. I hope your winter is over and spring is on the way.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I loved this post.
Such a beautiful reminder that winter does not last forever!

Morning's Minion said...

The thought of a garden in our new location is cheering me on through the weeks of packing and cleaning.
I had nearly given away my gardening books thinking they would never again be of use, now glad that I kept them.
My friends at the quilt shop where I have worked part time put money and lovely messages in a pretty card--the funds to be used for my "garden in Kentucky."
I've told them that each time I look at certain roses in my garden I will remember the friends who made them possible.
Yes, it is the hard work on hands and knees that make a garden lovely.

Bovey Belle said...

I said I'd be back. I have Rosa Mundi, and hadn't realized that there was a perpetual stripey rose too. That's a must for our next garden (thinking positive here!)

I quite miss not holidaying at my b-in-law's now, as we used to drive out and explore Suffolk, and we are now more appreciative of old church interiors than we were when the children were small (and they were too impatient to linger!)

I must blow the dust of my book of Helen Allingham's cottages. I so LOVE a cottage garden - have a sort-of one here! - but it would be lovely to move somewhere with a well-established garden I could add to rather than starting from scratch, as I have done in all the gardens I've ever cared for . . .

Sandie's Patch said...

Rowan, thanks for the the lovely pictures and inspiring thoughts.
I could and still can hear the bees and birds buzzing and singing in my head!( I do have a touch of tinnitusas well LOL!)
Feeling better already ta!xx

Pomona said...

I tried to forget, but then I looked out of the window! And my feet are still cold ...

Pomona x

FireLight said...

Dreaming of summer indeed! It has been WINTER all winter long even in the Deep South! After reading your post, I am ready to plan a trip to England! Rowan, you always do such beautiful work here! Thank you for your very kind words regarding Jake. I am calling cathyb (his owner) right now to tell her about this post. She is a fellow English teacher and long time Anglophile! Give that Baggins a special hug from one of his biggest fans!

Gracie said...

We are in full winter here too, and I'm dreaming if not of summer, at least of a warm springtime....

joanne May said...

Hi Rowan,
I am feeling the same as you about this dull weather we are having at the moment...Roll on summer and blue skies!:)
I want to go out and visit some of these lovely places you have featured in your post... I would definitely like to visit the Lake District and visit Beatrix Potter's home. At the moment, I am in the process of finding out if I am related to her because my grandfather told me, when I was young, that she was a relation of mine. I don't know if this is true or not!:)
I very much love her illustrations and books... It would be lovely though to find out if the story is true!
Your photos are great and make me feel like I want to visit a few National Trust places as soon as they are open again.
Good to see you!

SouthernHeart said...

I've just discovered your blog and I've so enjoyed reading all your lovely posts! I featured a link to your blog on my blog this morning, Thinking About It (at ). It's about my dream to visit England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales! I hope that's okay with you.


Mary said...

Here I am wishing for more Spring-like days while you're already thinking Summer!!! Don't blame you because nothing is as lovely a an English Summer Day. Although....have to say there were so many perfect days in Devon when I was there last Spring - it felt almost better than Summer which is often too hot for me!

Beautiful pics Rowan - and, if you can stop by today, you'll see I had also posted on Spring lambs and rolling green English pastures!

So, here's to a lovely Spring and then a wonderful Summer.
Hugs -

P.S. Great shot with the vulture - I always forget that they do have a job in the plan of Nature - it's just that they are so big and ominous looking. Bet I'll see plenty when I get to Africa in May!

Rosie said...

Lovely photos! The warmer weather is on the way now I think, with lots to look forward to. You are very brave to hold the vulture - I couldn't have gone anywhere near it. I love the garden and woodland birds but find the bigger ones scare me a bit if I'm too close to them:)

Tea and Margaritas in My Garden said...

That heather is so pretty. And you`re so lucky to live near such a beautiful area!


Diane said...

What a lovely packed post Rowan - too much to comment on!! Ive never been to Fanshawe Hall gardens so you must tip me off when they are open. You were very brave to hold that massive bird! Your garden looks lovely - and I cannot wait for the the moors to look like they do in your photo! Its not only the dogs that need to jump in the streams to cool off - we also love having a dip! xxxx

Monique Elisabeth said...

Such wonderful pictures. I long for Summer too !!
I'm sorry you lost some of your roses. I have a Rosa Mundi too and hope it has survived.
Have as wonderful beginning of the new week.

ruthie said...

hello rowan( i do love your name, thank you for these sweet reminders of summer, i am sooooo looking forward! Did you manage to listen to any of the pod casts? x x

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

I thought you had dropped off the face of the earth. I didn't recall seeing a post from you in quite awhile...this must have snuck past me! The times I visited England in the summer, I loved it. A little warmer than I expected but much cooler than here at home, which is wonderful! You have so much beauty to look forward to in the coming months, I'll look forward to more posts :) And yes, this post DID do the trick; it took the chill out of my bones and put a smile on my face. Beautiful pics!

Julie said...


Thank you so much for the paintings, photos and text of the summer that will surely come. Oh, to spend just one summer in England. I recognized the first painting from the Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford. At least I can visit England through it, you and Leanne.

Petra said...

What a wonderful reminiscence of summer days and your favourite places, Rowan! When I saw the first picture with the woman sitting and working in front of the house, I had to think about the movie "Miss Potter" relating the story of Beatrix Potter's life, surprisingly you mentioned her name later in your post too. She bought some estates in the Lake District that she transferred to the National Trust organization, what a forward-looking woman she had to be! I saw the film just a few days ago and it spoke to me "loudly"... :-)

Electricwitch said...

I just found your blog and loved it your beautiful pics have just banished winter from my mind. Hope to drop by regularly.


Eli said...

What a wonderful potpourri of summer gladness. I can hear the bees humming and taste the iced lemonade as I dream of all those golden afternoons to come.

Callie said...

Very nice visit from Spring! Lovely photos! I enjoyed reading your blog posts. The history was very interesting.