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.
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.
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?
Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A paddock riding in the sky, Above the oaks, in easy sail, On stilly wings and forked tail.
John Clare (c. 1820) Paddock is an old English name for the Red Kite
Red kites, coasting lazily across the skies on gentle thermals – floating, free-wheeling, gliding – command our instant attention. When we spot them as we’re walking, we can’t help but stand and stare, and relish their easy command of an immense sky. It’s that forked tail that gives them away.
And yet these noble-seeming creatures exist mainly on carrion. They’ll swoop quickly down to snatch roadkill – after the crows have helped themselves – and take it off to perch on some quiet tree to dismember and eat. Sometimes we’ll watch numbers of them wheeling above just-ploughed fields, questing for worms and small mammals.
It’s equinox season: that blessed time of year when day equals night, and when, for us, the days are getting longer.
It’s transition time in so many ways. Those wonderful winter trees, their tracery of twigs and branches transcribed against the sky are skeletal still: but only just.
This morning, on my way out, I noticed tightly furled leaf buds, glossy and taut on shrubs in the garden. Two hours later, coming back, the tender leaves had burst out, tiny and delicate, waiting to be toughened up and to grow in the mild spring air. It was very windy too – hence no photos.
Rus in urbe. Signs of the countryside in town. We spent a lot of our time in Andalucia, particularly in Córdoba and Málaga, hanging over river bridges staring at bird life, or gawping into trees to see what we could see. Here’s a bit of a rogues’ gallery….
Cormorants on the river Guadalquivir…
Herons – or perhaps always just the same heron? Fishing, always fishing.
A poor swallow (Was it a swallow? Help me, someone) trapped in the synagogue in Córdoba, endlessly flying impotently towards the light, the incontestably glazed windows.
Then it was parakeets. We’ve moved to Málaga now. We could hear them all the time, squawking in the palm trees. But this pair had time to bill, coo and preen.
La Concepción Botanical Gardens were at the edge of town. But still definitively Málaga. I offer you turtles…..
and – not from the Botanical Gardens – the inevitable herring gull.
And if it’s red squirrels you’re after, you’ll just have to read my last post.
As usual, click on any photo to view full size. This is my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: rus in urbe.
The Mezquita in Córdoba. It’s been a religious site since before recorded history. Ancient gods were worshipped here. Then the Visigoths came and built a church. Then, round about the 7th century, Christians and Muslims agreed to share this space, until the site was bought by Emir Abd al-Rahman in 784. This was the beginning of the vast place of worship we visited today.
When Córdoba was conquered for Christianity in 1236, the mosque became a Catholic cathedral. But it’s basically a gracious, imposing and immense Arab building with unsatisfactory Christian icing. To walk through the forest of Moorish columns, gazing upwards at Gothic ceilings is a slightly strange experience.
Spanish Muslims are petitioning for the right to worship here once more. With the Mezquita’s long-established history of shared worship and borrowed architecture, I hope they succeed.
Today’s Ragtag Challenge though, is ‘irridescence’. Let me show you a few irridescent details. https://wp.me/p9YcOU-zi