2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work


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Why is noticing nature important?

We’re all busy. It doesn’t matter if we only notice nature at weekends or on the telly on Countryfile, does it?

Well, any awareness is better than nothing, but it’s the daily stuff that makes the difference. It means we’re pausing out of our oh-so-busy lives and noticing what’s actually happening, right now. You can call it mindfulness if you want (very fashionable just now), but really it’s just being prepared to pay attention, to be alert to the possibility of wonderment in everyday life.

I’ve just walked into our kitchen to make a coffee, and a charm of goldfinches alighted at the top of our cherry tree for less than a minute. No time to take a picture – soon as I’d registered them they were off, away in a dipping and soaring cloud to their next vantage point. But they brought a smile to my face, and reminded me that this is the third time I’ve seen them this week, but with bigger numbers in the group each time.

I find that the things I notice in nature – the barn owl swooping over flooded fields seen from a train at dusk, the birdsong while I’m writing my to-do list at the start of the day, the daffodil giving me the first real hit of yellow this year – are the things that stay with me through the day and beyond.

Daffodil February GoldAnd I think that’s why we all need nature regularly – it’s the stuff that feeds our souls, that lifts us out of ourselves and helps us to notice what’s happening in the huge amazing world we inhabit. And yes, a flowering daffodil is just as much a part of that as the Amazonian rainforest, the Alps or the icy landscape of the Arctic – and it’s right here on our doorstep.

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Chill winds

Strong northerly breeze keeping temperatures well below zero all day today. I’m still getting over a bad chest infection from last week, so nature was absorbed today either at a remove through the car window, or in quick dashes between the car and the house.

Crocus in sunlight

Crocus tommasinianus

The light was amazing today though – pure blue sky and clear sunshine ensuring that every crocus in the garden was wide open. These are some of my favourite crocuses (I’ve written about them before here) as they seed themselves around so prolifically, and are much earlier to flower than the usual crocuses you see.  I love the contrast between the pale mauve outer petals and the deeper middle ones.

Crocus in bud

I suppose their origin in Eastern Europe accounts for their early bird nature – nothing much seems to affect these beautiful early blooms.

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New starts

Helleborus orientalis Feb 2016

Hellebore Oriental hybrid in vase

So with the sunshine today, felt it was time to dust off the blog and start to write again. I’d begun to feel tired with my old blog – it had been fun to keep a sort of online diary of things outside work, but there wasn’t a lot of purpose to it other than that.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking about taking it up again, and although the theme is still taking shape, I know roughly what I want to write about:

  • The importance of paying attention to nature on a daily basis – especially when you live in a town or city
  • The increasing ‘tidying up’ mania that seems to be affecting the few wild spaces in those areas
  • The need to manage our own space in a way that encourages nature even on a tiny scale – I call it ‘micro-wilding’. It’s not quite the rewilding movement (I’m not planning on any wolves in my garden, though we do well for smaller scale wildlife), but it’s a start.
  • Using what we see in nature as a source of inspiration for creative activity

I’m not sure yet how that will pan out, and I may ultimately move away from this blog to start a new one – but for now I’m just experimenting.

So the pic above? A Hellebore – one of the orientalis varieties, and flowering much earlier than usual after such a mild winter. A plant that really benefits from a ‘laissez faire’ approach to gardening. Notoriously difficult to raise from seed yourself (the seed has to be really fresh), left to their own devices they’ll happily provide you with lots of new seedlings each May/June that you can easily transplant elsewhere. If you’re an enthusiastic ‘weeder’ though, forget it, as you’ll have them up before you’ve realised what treasure you were throwing away. And treasure is the right word: you can easily pay between £5-10 for one of these at a garden centre.

Helleborus orientalis centre Feb 2016

Centre of Hellebore Oriental hybrids

Let nature do what it’s good at, and you’ll maximise beauty and save money. Not a lot in life that you can say that about!


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Spring outing

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Confession time: I bunked off yesterday (technically I’m not sure I can bunk off as I’m my own boss. But you know what I mean) and headed to one of my favourite bits of the countryside (see our visit last spring here) to enjoy the fabulous spring weather. We ran and walked around Beetham and Silverdale on the Lancashire/Cumbria border, an enchanting part of the world full of ruined towers, beautiful little villages and woods that run right down to the sea.

IMG_2721Our route took us past stately homes…

IMG_2727panoramic views…

IMG_2734hundreds of spring flowers…

IMG_2728and a real live fairy door!

IMG_2729Isn’t this the cutest thing you ever saw? It was just to the side of the path by a viewpoint known as the ‘Fairy Steps’ – a very narrow path up a limestone cliff – legend has it that if you reach the top without touching the sides you’ll see a fairy/get a wish. We didn’t manage it, but we did get to see the door. I would have loved this when I was little, and to be honest it quite made my day yesterday too 🙂

IMG_2730After that we headed downhill at a brisk rate for soup and cake at the utterly phenomenal Wolfhouse Kitchen. This cafe is tucked away in a quiet corner between the woods and the sea and serves the most wonderful cakes. Indeed it was so good that we forgot to take any pics of them in our greed, went for a three mile walk afterwards to walk off lunch, went back again for more cakes and coffee and forgot for a second time to take a picture. I had a rhubarb and vanilla friand first, and then a plum, marzipan and vanilla cake. OH had a strawberry, lemon and almond bundt – twice.

No, we didn’t need to eat much when we got in yesterday evening.


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Cherry blossom time

 

IMG_2697The light today has been just wonderful, and although I’ve had a long day at my laptop I had to keep sneaking out into the garden to catch as much of the spring rush as possible. You can almost see the cherry opening – no wonder they have celebrations of this in Japan.

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IMG_2698And for the first time this year it was just warm enough to head into the garden after work to sit and enjoy the sunshine – admittedly with a scarf on as the wind is still chilly, but that didn’t matter.

IMG_2701I don’t want to miss a second of this spectacular colour.

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Blossom time

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This is proving to be a seriously good spring for all types of flowers – tulips are coming out all over the garden, the forget-me-nots are just getting into their stride and I don’t think I ever remember seeing so many flowers on the magnolia and camellia.

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IMG_2671To give you an idea of scale, I can just about stretch to reach the top of the magnolia, and the camellia outgrew me a few years back. We planted both of them the year we moved into this house over 20 years ago and they’ve brightened every spring since.

IMG_2672Today had been grey with low cloud until about 5pm when the sky cleared and there was the most amazing low angled sun lighting up all the flowers.

IMG_2677I’d been reading the Portraits of Wildflowers blog earlier today about the amazing wild flower meadows in Texas at this time of year and thinking how marvellous it must be to see that. But honestly, the forget-me-nots, celandines and all the other parts of an English spring aren’t half bad either.

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Perfect garden afternoon

IMG_2648The warm weather this weekend seems to have resulted in lots of wildlife getting out and about. I saw three different types of butterfly this afternoon: the Peacock above and the Tortoiseshell below. I also had a Comma land on the table, but couldn’t get to my camera without frightening it off! I’m sure these must all be ones that have been hibernating through the winter.

IMG_2646The birds are also thoroughly enjoying the warmer weather – the bowl we have for Tilly to drink from in the garden makes a perfect sized bath for two or three sparrows, or a solitary starling or blackbird – this one today was having a really good splash!

IMG_2645So, so nice to sit in the garden with my flip flops on (with my feet hideously whitened after many months of thick socks!), read (currently revisiting Enchanted April, which I wrote about last year, and is one of the best books about finding joy by following your heart), journal, bask in the sun and listen to the bird song. Not warm enough to be out of long sleeves yet, but pretty good all the same.

IMG_2650I always want to grab hold of spring this time of year and make it stay longer – things seem to flower and change so quickly, and after a long winter you feel like you want the magnolia and quince blossom to last just as long as the cold weather did.

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