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:)