I couldn’t be doing with pink when I was younger. I thought it was an itsy-bitsy sort of colour, suitable to be worn by annoying little girls of the Violet Elizabeth Bott persuasion (You do know who I’m talking about here, don’t you? Violet Elizabeth was the lisping, spoiled creature who tormented Richmal Crompton’s delightfully grubby-kneed and accident-prone Just William, as popular now as when he was first created in 1922).
I declined to dress my young daughters in pink, or to wear it myself. I despised its sugar-sweet prettiness.
These days I’m rather less hardline. I even have a raspberry pink shirt.
All the same, I think pink is happiest in the garden. It’s here that flowers can celebrate the colour in all its variety, from the softest most delicate shades of baby pink through to vibrant, vivacious flamingo pink. Pastel pink. Shocking pink. And pinks that use flower names: cherry blossom; rose; fuschia; carnation; cyclamen; dogwood.
Here’s a picture gallery of May time flowers taken over the last few years. All of them are pink. And I like every single one.
Many of these pictures were taken in our garden; in our village; at Newby Hall; and at the Himalayan Gardens at Grewelthorpe. It’s my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: pink.
Several of you commented on my coastal pictures from Northumberland, remarking on how relaxing the whole thing must have been. Well …. it recharged the batteries alright … but not by lying down on the beach with a good book. Certainly not.
We were at Nether Grange, an HF hotel, with our walking group. And we were there with other walkers – some in groups, others not. At Nether Grange, walking is what you come for. That and good food eaten in good company. We’d opted for guided walks. Three levels of difficulty are offered each day so there’s no excuse not to get involved. I chose one of each, so finished the week with 15.3 km, 12 km and 17 km. walks under my belt.
This is hill country. The Pennines, the backbone range that bisects northern England becomes the Cheviots as it marches towards Scotland. In the car you’ll swoop thrillingly up and audaciously down those hillsides. They provide a backdrop to the area which is at once dramatic and bucolic.
On foot, you’ll get to know about those slopes….. actually, we weren’t often faced with gradients that had us gasping, panting and begging for mercy. But we rarely had a long level stretch either. And our leaders were there to encourage, chivvy along, provide good humour and background notes on all kinds of topics … as well as read the maps, so we didn’t have to.
We walked moorland tracks, bouncy with springy turf nibbled short by sheep. We crossed hillsides bright with golden gorse. We tracked through woodland carpeted with bluebells.
We passed Ford Moss, an extremely ancient raised peat bog where we excited the residents: Exmoor ponies charged with grazing the vegetation and keeping it in trim.
We passed farms with shire horses and hissy geese.
Shirehorse and foal.
And on the last day, we walked the local coastal path: St. Oswald’s Way. The section between Alnmouth and Craster-where-the-kippers-come-from is characterised by craggy cliffs, and are home, like the nearby Farne Islands, to many thousands of seabirds such as kittiwakes and fulmars. Here’s what the zoom lens on my new camera can do.
Our group, the 17 km one (10 1/2 miles to the non-metric) finished just beyond Dunstanburgh Castle. It was built in the 14th Century by the Earl of Lancaster, who was openly hostile to King Edward II – never a good idea, because the king had him executed in 1322. This fortification was built to make a bellicose statement, in an area crowded with castles. Now it’s a ruin, and an impressive one. We slogged to the top of the keep for the views, marvelling at the extra-thick walls as we climbed.
We finished the day, and our three days of walks, with a paddle. Gotta have a paddle. Or ‘plodge’ as the locals call it.
With thanks to our walk leaders Chris, Helen, Paul, Richard: to Reuben and Team Nether Grange, and to our own Mike and Angela for organising the holiday.
I could take a walk on the beach every morning of my life.
We’ve just come back from four days in Northumberland, staying in the coastal town of Alnmouth. Each morning before breakfast, I’d walk down to the sands to be both stimulated and calmed by the dragging, pulsing action of the sea.
There was the patterning of the sands to enjoy. Those banks of undulations extending as far as I could see. The designs etched in different coloured sands upon the newly-flattened beach. Shadows and reflections in shallow pools. The changing colours of the sea and sky towards the horizon.
Other beach lovers walked in contemplative silence too. Their dogs preferred to celebrate the long, wide space, and simply ran and ran.
Herons seem to be a part of our lives. It’s a rare week when we don’t spot one flying languidly along the river, or waiting on an exposed rock for the next snack.
Wherever we travel, we can go heron spotting. We’ve seen them in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, Córdoba in southern Spain, l’Albufera near Valencia, and Busan in South Korea. Town and country: herons are there.
Fishing in the canal at Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
A heron at sunset on the Guadalquivir, Córdoba.
Flying along the river at Dongnae, Busan, South Korea.
We see them as we walk along the path towards West Tanfield, and spot them on the garden pond.
The other day after a stressful week, I needed a bit of space. Nosterfield Nature Reserve just up the road was the answer. I walked along the wetland paths watching water birds courting, feeding, simply being there, standing motionless or swimming peacefully. Quiet fields formed the backdrop.
I went to the farthest hide. I became transfixed by the under-stated drama being played out between a heron and two or three egrets. They were fishing. All plodded gracefully in and out of what humans might see as each other’s personal space. They didn’t care or even seem to notice one another. They simply co-existed, fishing.
This series of pictures might not seem that different one from another. They’re a record of a simple afternoon in the lives of a heron, three egrets ….. and me.
There are sheep at the bottom of the garden. Jacob sheep, three of them. And not so long ago, they gave birth to lambs – five between them. We didn’t see this domestic drama. They visit a neighbouring farm for ante-natal and delivery services. But a fortnight ago, they all returned home, and relished the fresh grass, newly lush after the winter.
Last week, the large and spectacular copper beech at one end of their field virtually overnight burst into leaf. Naked twigs produced swelling leaf buds, and then…. almost instantly, delicate pinky-crimson leaves, practically translucent. The Jacob sheep eyed them with interest. Grass is all very well, but …. young beech leaves? Oh yes! Well worth craning your neck for!
Yesterday afternoon, one of the ewes and her two lambs popped over to inspect me as I walked down the drive. They thought I might be John with a bucket of food (I had neither a beard nor a bucket, and it wasn’t the right time of day, but well, it was still worth a try). I was, as ever, a big disappointment. But it did remind the ewe that the copper beech was there beside me, its lowest branches just about reachable. She reached up. She selected bunches of young leaves, chewed them, ate them. Moved on a few yards and repeated the process. Again and again.
In a few days, those leaves will toughen up. Got to take your pleasures while you can. I hope her gourmandising didn’t give her a tummy ache.
We’re fond of our garden birds. Little by little, we’re getting to identify them. But their songs and calls? Not so much.
On Saturday though, we had an opportunity. Just along from here at Old Sleningford Farm, Linda Jenkinson whom we first met some five years ago on her bird watching course at Nosterfield, was exploring Bird Song. We knew we had to sign up.
A morning in the classroom. We learnt about blackbirds:
And chiffchaffs: think ‘chiffchiff’ rather than ‘chiffchaff’
and coal tits, and all the other kinds of garden tit.
We tackled about sixteen kinds of bird and their songs, listened, looked, did quizzes, and finished the morning feeling fairly sorted.
Then we had lunch. Home made frittata and bread, freshly gathered salad leaves, locally pressed apple juice, deliciously damp cake – that’s the sort of nourishment you get when you come to Old Sleningford Farm.
And afterwards it was The Great Outdoors. Well, I’m sorry birds, but you ought to get organised, form an orderly queue and sing, one by one. We wandered through woodland, along the river, explored the Forest Garden. And as we sauntered, ears cocked at the ready, willow warblers; marsh warblers; blackcaps; kingfishers all cacophonously introduced themselves, quite drowning out our carefully revised memories of bullfinch, chaffinch and the like. It was wonderful. We learnt, we listened, we enjoyed simply being in this peaceful place, shared only with the birds and other unseen wildlife. Thank you Linda. So glad to Start Birding with you!
May is blue and white. May is the month when bluebells thrust their heads above the leaf mould of an English woodland and carpet it with a hazy sea of blue. It’s when forget-me-nots flower in every vacant spot of earth, and wriggle through the cracks in paving stones. It’s when bluish-purple wisteria scrambles across old brickwork, gently waving its blooms in the light spring breeze. It’s when the sky is often reliably and cloudlessly blue on a sunny afternoon.
Ponds at Harlow Carr Gardens, Harrogate.
The River Ure at West Tanfield.
Bluebells at the bottom of the garden.
Wisteria on the wall.
A mallard at Patelety Bridge. Blue head. White tail.
May is hawthorn time. May is lilac time. May sees late-flowering wild garlic give place to bluebells . Daisies take over. White petals from pear, apple and cherry trees swirl gently to the ground. And white woolly lambs play king-of-the-castle and run races in the fields. Round here, sheep-identification markings are blue.
Dead nettles near the river.
Cherry blossom near the pond at North Stainley.
Lilac about to burst into flower.
Daisies. Of course.
There’s plenty of space for yellow too. Anyone spotted any dandelions?