Saturday 26 February 2022

The spectrum of colour......

in the garden currently is dominated by pink. From deepest maroon to softest pink, along with swathes of white and splashes of yellow. 
Hellebores - Helleborus produce their pretty, nodding blooms in winter and early spring through to April, which makes them a valuable asset to any garden. Braving the chill, they are hardy, compact, low maintenance, and their flowers provide valuable nectar for early pollinators.  What’s more, most are happy in partial shade, where their evergreen leaves provide interest all year round.
make great cut flowers, and an interesting way to show them off, is to snip off the flower heads and float them in a shallow bowl of water.
When first planning the garden one of our aims was to make a tapestry of colour using various heathers. The idea appeared to be a non starter due to our alkaline limestone ground -  heathers thrive on acidic soil. However, following some research we discovered that heathers prefixed
Erica x darleyensis, and not Erica x carnea would be alright. Fortunately there are plenty of colours within the "darleyensis" range, and they too are currently in flower with a variety of colours not unlike those of the Helebores.
Hundreds of Snowdrops continue to drift all over the garden, but sadly these little harbingers of Spring will soon be bidding us farewell until next year.
“She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    "Winter is dead.”
A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Tuesday 15 February 2022

The Repair Shop....

is a very popular British television programme. Is it viewed overseas? In the programme members of the public are invited to bring a greatly loved but damaged treasure to the Repair Shop. Usually the item has been handed down through the family or holds special memories of a loved relative or friend. Many of the items look as if they are beyond repair, and impossible to restore to anything resembling their former glory. However, the various talented craftspeople, by using their special skills, work magic on them. The object usually ends up looking far better than their owners or the viewers could ever imagine, and if broken, they are returned back into working order.            

I have a much loved clock which has no special history or background. I purchased it from a local potter because we needed a clock to sit on our mantlepiece and I liked it. The clock has been ticking away happily for over 20 years but suddenly stopped working when I replaced a battery. I fiddled with it, but had no idea what was wrong. However, the battery unit appeared to be loose and I wondered whether it had become detached from the hands. Watching The Repair Shop programme I thought that I needed something similar, but where to go? All of the jewellery/clock shops visited referred me to a clock maker, but a contemporary battery operated clock does not require the skills of a trained horologist. It has been sitting waiting for some attention for several weeks as I was unsure how to proceed. Did it need a new battery unit? If so where would I get the correct one and how would I fit it?

I made a few enquiries on a local Facebook website and several people came to my aid by mentioning that we have a great Repair Shop locally. I have subsquently discovered that there are two others in this area, and furthermore they can also now be found in other parts of the country. I don't know if they are as a result of the programme but the people who work in them give their time and skills freely. They are often retired people who either enjoy repairing broken objects or continue to enjoy using skills connected to their previous employment - they repair domestic items, damaged garments, leatherwork, broken china, paintings, anything is considered.

The Repair Shop that I visited happened to have a retired clockmaker/repairer working with them - how lucky was I? The shop I visited charge a very modest amount of money per hour just enough to cover their costs, plus the price of any items that may be needed to complete the repair. I left the clock with them, and a telephone call a couple of days later informed me that it was ready to be collected.

I am extremely grateful to have my clock back, working perfectly, and happily ticking away again.

Hopefully this information may be useful to others - as you too may have a similar Repair Shop on your doorstep.

Monday 14 February 2022

St. Valentine's Day

Across much of the world on the 14th February Valentine’s Day is celebrated, but where did the tradition come from and how did it become such a staple part of our calendar? Along with many festivals celebrated in Britain, St Valentine’s Day appears to have some basis in paganism and it is believed that the celebration of love and relationships that we see today were inspired by Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrated by the pagans. Apparently, the festival took place every year from 13th – 15th February.  Chaucer wrote a poem in 1382 to celebrate the engagement of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia and it was his mention of St Valentine’s Day and the association with romantic love within the poem that formed the basis of the day we now know. 

Although there were several martyrs in the early Christian church named Valentine, only two of them are commemorated on February 14. The two saints are Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome. Valentine of Terni was martyred in 213 and Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269. Both of them were added to the calendar of saints in 496 by Pope Gelasius

Hope that you all have a lovely day wherever you are.


Friday 4 February 2022

Harbingers of Spring

      Eranthis Hyemalis - Aconites, and Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrops. 

New life has begun again which not only gladdens the heart but also delights the eye.

Crocus tommasinianus - early Spring crocus

        The pretty tassels of the Garrya elliptical - silk tassel bush

So far, in this corner of the world, Winter has been benevolent. No snow, or ice, and very little rain. Some chilly, frosty mornings, but countless days of wonderful bright winter sunshine and blue skies.

It is too lovely to be inside, so time for a February walk around our hilltop aerie to see how Spring is shaping up on our escarpment - all of the jobs needing attention back at home can wait.
Looking across the Severn Vale and over the mighty R. Severn towards Wales. On a clear day it is possible to see far more of the distant Welsh landscape, especially Sugar Loaf, a mountain that provides a spectacular backdrop to the quaint old market town of Abergavenny. 
At the end of April 500 cattle will be returned to The Common where they roam freely until November. The land here has never been ploughed, it has relied solely on grazing cattle for hundreds of years, who feed on its grasses and flowers, and in return supply nutrients to the soil.  
The Common is particularly
known for its flora and fauna. An SSSI, and designated a European Special Area of Conservation for its flora and fauna, in paricular its flowers, herbs and invertebrates. It is the most extensive area of semi-natural dry limestone grassland surviving in the Cotswolds. During Summer it is possible to see a number of species of orchid - Early Purple, Fragrant, Pyramidal, Common and Spotted. Bee, Musk and Frog Orchids grow here too but they are not easy to find unless you know the Common well.
Time to return back home and enjoy a welcome cup of coffee, and may be, even a little treat.