Snapshot Saturday: from Pyrenees to Pennines via books, a cup of coffee,a skein of geese …. and an elephant

The WordPress photo challenge this week is ‘Beloved’.

I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere.  I have no pets, beloved or otherwise.  So I’ll have to look a little further.

Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:

  • The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone  walls I missed so much during our years in France.
  • The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day.  I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
  • Springtime daffodils.  Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves.  I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
  • There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
  • A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
  • Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
  • And so on….

I’ll end though with this.  I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam,  Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure.  But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.

Elephant in the temple of Adi Kumbeswarar, Kumbakonam, ready to give me his blessing.

Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.

Snapshot Saturday: You can never have too many snowdrops

2018. Our earliest snowdrops.

On New Year’s Day, I excitedly posted a photo of the earliest snowdrops of the year, spotted that very morning.  If I’d known that this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge was to be ‘Growth’, I might just have held back.

As it is, I now realise just how special those early hardy little shoots are.  That little patch of snowdrops I showed you was alone, quite alone on a sea of bare earth, creeping ivy and a few shriveled Autumn leaves.

Let’s fast forward maybe four weeks.  This is what the garden and surrounding woodlands will look like after all the hundreds and thousands of local snowdrops have grown, pushing themselves forth through the chilly frozen earth.  Our annual miracle.

February 2017.  All the local snowdrops have arrived.

Click on any image to view full size.

Supplementary Snapshot Saturday: First snow

The weekly photo challenge posed by WordPress is taking a week off.  I don’t have to.  I thought I’d add to the piles of photos clogging up the internet showing snow.  Snow in the garden, out by the lake, up a mountain, shutting down the motorways, whitening city streets ….

We woke up this morning to bitter cold.  Minus One Celsius.  This will make my American and Canadian readers laugh.  Look at this post from my blogging friend Kerry.  Where she wakes up it’s  -32, and steam is rising from the frozen lake.  She’d better not read this.  Where she is, nobody ventures out, not even – especially not even – the cats.

This is snowy weather British style.  Just a couple of inches.  Just enough to snarl up the transport system and fill the airwaves with ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ type warnings.  It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.

 

 

Click on any image to view full size.

PS.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Baden-Baden. Not twinned with Harrogate …

… but it ought to be. Both are – or were – spa towns. Both attracted a better class of visitor keen to cure ailments by drinking and bathing in the health-giving waters.  In my opinion, Harrogate should have won hands down in attracting visitor numbers. Its sulphurous waters, reminiscent of bad eggs, are truly horrible, and must therefore do you good. The waters of Baden-Baden are without taste, though hot. No pain, no gain.

Baden-Baden welcomed visitors to this splendid railway station, now a concert hall. 

Harrogate station is nothing to write home about.

Harrogate has the Pump Rooms and the Turkish Baths. Baden-Baden’s two thermal baths are extensively elegant affairs. After taking the cure, Harrogate can offer the Promenade in the Valley Gardens, while visitors to the German city can enjoy their promenade at the Trinkhalle.

Finally, Harrogate is girdled by magnificent green belt of the Stray.  Baden-Baden’s visitors have instead the equally delightful Lichtentaler Aller.

We had a mere four hours in Baden-Baden today. It deserved longer. But it’s Strasbourg tomorrow, and the European Parliament. We can’t wait.

Snapshot Saturday: Structured elegance – unstructured lodgings

 

I was at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  And it was raining.  I stood beneath the shelter of the Temple of Piety, and enjoyed the gracious structured elegance of the Water Gardens.  Centre stage was Neptune, Roman god of the waters, and of the Moon Ponds over which he presides.

And then I noticed that amid this ordered beauty, a coot family had built a ramshackle and highly unstructured nest.  I think the gardens’ creators, John and William Aislabie would have enjoyed the water birds’ cheeky appropriation of this most peaceful of scenes.

Coot family on the Moon Pond.

My contribution to this week’s WordPress photo challenge: Structure.

Snapshot Saturday: Mulberries for the taking

The mulberry tree outside the study window.

See this tree?  I look at it every day, from the study window.  As trees go, it’s not so special to look at.  But for two months in summer it gives satisfaction to three households, by providing them with mulberries, day after day after day.

Mulberries ripe and under ripe.

Although they grow on trees, mulberries are a bit like loganberries, or a cross between raspberries and blackberries.  They’re tart, yet sweet, and very moreish indeed.  I can’t pass the tree without scavenging on the lawn for a handful to eat.

Yet another bowlful of mulberries

I collect a dishful every morning to put on my cereal. We add them to summer pudding, to yoghurt, to ice cream. We bake with them. We make syrups, cordials and mulberry gin with them. And the tree goes on and on, producing more and more fruits, every day from July to September.

The birds ignore them.  We don’t.  Such a satisfying job, collecting our daily ration of free fruit.

Here’s a recipe I tried out this week.  It’s adapted from one of Nigel Slater’s reliably tasty offerings.  No mulberries?  Poor you.  Use raspberries, tayberries, loganberries or blackberries instead. They’ll be good too.

Mulberry and apricot cake

  • 175 g. butter
  • 175 g. golden caster sugar
  • c. 200 g. apricots
  • 170 g. mulberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 g. self-raising flour
  • 100 g. ground nuts – I used a mixture of walnuts and almonds.  Hazelnuts are good too.
  • 2 tablespoons of milk.

20 cm. loose-bottomed cake tin, lined.  Oven temp 180 degrees (Gas 4)

  1. Stone and roughly chop the apricots.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the creamed mixture a little at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour if necessary to prevent curdling.
  4. Slowly incorporate the flour and ground nuts, then the milk, then the apricots and mulberries.
  5. Scrape the mixture into the cake tin.  I added a few extra mulberries on the top  – this was decoration enough on the finished cake.
  6. Bake for an hour and ten minutes.  Test with a skewer.
  7. Leave to cool, then turn out onto a plate.  Eat.

    Someone’s been eating my mulberry cake ….

And that’s my offering for this week’s WordPress photo challenge: satisfaction

 

 

The Himalayan Gardens

Even better than the fact that Himalayan gardens exist here, and just eight miles from our house, is the fact that they’re next to the village of Grewelthorpe.  And if that isn’t the best village name in England, I don’t know what is.

All the same, what are Himalayan Gardens, complete with a sculpture park doing in North Yorkshire?

Twenty years ago, Peter and Caroline Roberts bought a twenty acre woodland garden.  It wasn’t up to much really.  Coppiced hazel, an infestation of Japanese knotweed, dense dark Sitka spruce woods.  Its redeeming feature was a drive of rhododendrons, and this gave Peter Roberts his idea.  He looked at other rhododendron collections at Castle Howard, at Bodnant, at Muncaster Castle, and was inspired.

Rhododendrons such as these must have inspired Peter Roberts. Can you spot the drift of red specimens in the background?

Alan Clark, rhododendron guru and Himalayan plant hunter, told him that both site and soil were ideal: ‘I was intrigued by the idea of creating a Himalayan garden from scratch and decided to give it a go!’

Clark helped him with early specimens, Roberts supported plant-hunting trips to the sino-himalayan area … and the gardens began.

You won’t just find rhododendrons and azaleas though.  There are massed plants that you’ll find in many well-stocked British gardens.  There are drifts of narcissus in the spring.  There are carpets of bluebells.  There are several lakes on site.  Word has got round the bird and insect community that this is a fine place to live, and any birdwatcher or entomologist could have a busy time here. As could visitors who enjoy coming across an eclectic mix of sculptures during their walk.

My photos have disappointed me.  They give little impression of the rich feast of colour provided by hillsides covered in an ever-changing pageant of different varieties of rhododendron and azalea.

Nor can you see that this is a work in progress.  Peter and Caroline Roberts are constantly developing the site, planting and extending the collection.  On Saturday, just after our visit, a new arboretum opened.

Go while you can.  This special place is open for two months only every spring, and for a further couple of weeks in the autumn. It’s worth a detour (Susan Rushton, I’m looking at you).

The Himalayan blue poppy makes its striking appearance throughout the gardens