A meadow: a celebration of summer days

The early 1950s were in many ways the fag-end of the war.  I lived in Sandhutton, a little village outside Thirsk, where my mother was head of a two-teacher school.  I was with the under eights, while she taught the nine to fifteen year olds. Few pupils aimed to pass for Grammar when life as a farm labourer awaited.  The school photo confirms my memory. Everything was beige and grey.

Sandhutton School, c.1952, just before I started there as a pupil. My mother is the teacher on the left, and my teacher, Miss Burnett, is on the right.

Sweets were almost unknown, and we were happy to supplement our adequate-but-dull diets by marauding the hedgerows for blackberries and rosehips, or by getting up at four in the morning to go mushrooming on the now-abandoned airfield.

Perhaps that dinginess is why my memory of that meadow is so vivid.  Not far from our house, it was where we’d go sometimes when, during the long school summer break, my mother put together a picnic .  I enjoyed running wild in the fields, while she managed a rare daytime doze in the sunshine. What I remember is flinging myself down in the grasses which then rasped and tickled my bare legs.  I was searching, among the vetch, the buttercups and the poppies for daisies or other small flowers that I could make into a daisy chain. I wasn’t very good at it. The stems would split and mash, and my chain would tumble apart before it had even reached bracelet proportions.

I remember the fuzzing and the droning of the bees and flying things that murmured and hummed about my head; the brief sting of one of the single-minded ants out to seize any of our stray crumbs.  I think back to the vivid colours of the meadow flowers – yellow buttercups and vetch, blue cornflowers, white meadowsweet blushing faintly pink or yellow, and the delicate papery petals of scarlet poppies.  It smelt – well,  green – and wafting from the next field was the sappy smell of recently cut hay. In the early afternoon there were no birds singing. Instead, the whirring of insect wings, the rumble of a distant tractor.

Directly above, as I lay in the grass, were no threatening clouds at all – of course there weren’t – just puffs of white cumulus, or ethereal streaks of cirrus in the perfectly blue sky.  

Distance lends enchantment to the view.  But it really was like that.

This miscellany of photos doesn’t come from Sandhutton at all, but from bits of North Yorkshire, from Shopshire, from Franconia …. anywhere that has a meadow.  Click on any image to see it full size.

35 thoughts on “A meadow: a celebration of summer days”

  1. Did you know our entrepreneurial daughter Kat has bought the Methodist chapel in Sandhutton which she is going to convert into a house for herself!! She’s had it for nearly a year now but has had to jump through the hoops of planning consents…. and the hunt for suitable contractors to do the work. No wonder she’s pressing us to downsize. She needs our money as well! I’m not surprised she fell for it – such a lovely village. She even found two of the people she needed to work on the chapel actually living in the village – and on the other side of the road is an excellent pub which does good, home-cooked food. Hope you are both well…. and that that little grand-daughter of yours continues to grow in strength and determination. Much love Jonet

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    1. This is extraordinary. And I’ve begun to develop other links with my old village – my lovely Spanish teacher lives there – I’d love to see how Kat’s courageous project develops. Meanwhile, in other news, Zoë seems to be doing fine for one so small. We must meet again soon. Apart from That Party, it’s been so long…..

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  2. Oh, those daisy chains! We used to try to make them and turn them into daisy crowns. I was not so good at that either. The dandelions seemed easier because their stems were a little stickier…but the ants knew that too!

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  3. This is beautifully written–so evocative of simple childhood pleasures, just rambling and taking it all in. My favorite photos are the ones of the poppies. I’ve only seen a meadow of poppies like that once, in Cornwall, but I’ve never forgotten it!

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  4. The Ariège is currently greener than E Sussex was when we left it a couple of weeks ago and so is also very floriferous; I love a meadow. The hand in your last post of Zoë under blue light really shows scale and how tiny she is. Lovely of William I can imagine his face. I’ve heard of octopus therapy before it appears that it’s really helpful. Hope all is still going well with the new arrival I know it can be a tense time and a bit of an emotional roller coaster

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    1. Zoë seems well. Just very tiny. Hope things jog on as they are. I certainly hadn’t heard about these octopi till I met hers in Lewisham Hospital. I loved the meadows near us in the Ariège. There were some wonderful ones near la Bastide de Bousignac. But it seems to have been an odd summer there too.

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  5. I really love this post – your evocative descriptions and photos bring back memories for me too, and a bitter-sweet nostalgia. Meadows and meadow flowers, although beautiful and enthralling, were maybe regarded as simple pleasures back in the day, but sadly now are increasingly rare. Thanks for sharing in celebrating their summery preciousness. Glad also to hear that Zoe is doing well.

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      1. Yes it is sad. I remember childhood visits to the village where my grandparents lived (and where my mother grew up) in Herefordshire, and the village was surrounded by meadows and patches of woodland, all so rich and lovely – magical to my South African eyes – all long gone now.

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  6. I first rolled in an English meadow when I was 10 and felt I’d come home. Just love the sweet smell.
    Your beautiful photos remind me of our holiday 2 years ago in Swaledale – buttercups every where
    Did you used to hold them under your chin for the reflection?
    Thanks again for the escape
    Meg

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    1. Buttercups under chin to prove you like butter? Of course! I had some lovely photos of Swaledale meadows, but I couldn’t lay my hands on them for this post, so I’m glad your memory is good

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