‘……the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row’*

Soon, it will be the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  One hundred years since Armistice Day 1918, and the end of World War I.  Since the 1920s, here in Britain and the Commonwealth, the poppies which were so ubiquitous in the Flanders fields of battle have been used as a symbol to commemorate those who died in conflict.

For about a year now, Ripon has been making plans for something rather special – The Ripon Community Poppy Project.

Hand knitted poppies have appeared all over town, specifically a great avenue of them on the route between the Cathedral, past the Market Square and Town Hall and down towards the park – Spa Gardens. Shopkeepers have dressed their windows in commemoration.  All this year, the citizens of Ripon and beyond have been knitting and crocheting dozens of poppies, scores of poppies, hundreds and thousands of poppies. Sadly, not me.  I can’t knit.  Now these poppies are being displayed.  Everywhere.

It’s been an extraordinary project, involving the young, the old, the housebound, all of whom have been united in wanting to have Ripon remember the fallen in a striking yet appropriate way.

And there’s more.  I’ll be posting about ‘Fields of Mud, Seeds of Hope’, and  events at the Cathedral later.  For now, just have a short walk round Ripon with me and enjoy the poppies, as you remember the terrible story of the Great War.

*’In Flanders Fields’ by John McRae.

Click on any image to view full size.


I’ve been enjoying a brilliant book, ‘The Moth Snowstorm’, by Michael McCarthy.  Thanks Penny, for suggesting it.

It’s part nature writing, part memoire, part polemic, and a powerful and affecting read about McCarthy and his relationship with the natural world.  A constant theme though, is ‘joy’.

The book first got under my skin when defining ‘joy’, which is perhaps summed up as a moment of true happiness, with a spiritual, selfless, outward looking dimension. McCarthy’s first experience of joy was as a boy, learning to love the landscape and wildlife of the Dee Estuary. Later, it was bluebell woods, chalkland streams … and so on. Most of his joyful moments happen when he’s alone and surrounded by the natural world: though he acknowledges that our children, our grandchildren also bring us moments of undiluted joy.

What in the natural world brings me joy?  Nothing original.

The first snowdrops edging through the earth while winter is still bitter, dark and long.

Snowdrops at Sleningford, February 2017

Bluebells, with their sweet cool scent, apparently hovering in an unending hazy carpet across a woodland floor.

Bluebells at Ripley, May 2017

Lying in bed early, very early on a springtime morning, and hearing the very first bird as it calls out to orchestrate the morning concert which is the Dawn Chorus.

First thing in the morning, last thing in the evening, the blackbird sings. : http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcohebing/ Wikimedia Commons

A rare sight in England now, but fields scarlet with swaying poppies.

Poppies: Grain field with Field Poppies in Schermen, Möser, Landkreis Jerichower Land, Germany. J.-H. Janßen ( Wikimedia Commons)

Waves crashing on a beach, as a chilly wind whips sand across my face and into my eyes.

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea

What brings joy to your soul?

Afterword:  Some of you have asked to be reminded when BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ series about the Nidderdale Way is being broadcast.  The first of six programmes will be on air this Thursday, 18th May at 3.00.  ‘Our’ episode will be the sixth and final one, on June 22nd.  Podcast available.  

Walking the Nidderdale Way is pretty damn’ joyous, actually.