Tag Archives: Spring

March Madness and Reading Inspirations – War and Peace Part Two and Bookstack challenges.

We have definitely had a mad March with all the weather and political changes but the rain is thankfully and finally falling. Let’s also hope for a peaceful and just outcome soon.

As many of you know this area of Andalucia should have a high rainfall in the mountains but there has been a nine month drought and less rainfall in the Autumn time. How the plants and trees survive is a wonder. But under the ground there are vast aquifers and the water table is rising again. We must not overexploit this and I will post further on our community’s local demonstration and the plight of the UNESCO biosphere, the Donana Wetlands.

March Madness  and Reading Inspirations – War and Peace Part Two and Bookstack challenges.

This March we have seen the plum trees blossom at the beginning and the cherries near the end. Other plants flowering are the wild viburnum and yellow gorse along with the yellow rock rose – Halmium trifolium. And a good variety of birds are now busy. My husbands sharp eyes spotted a small bird of prey from the window. It was neatly poised on a overhanging bare branch of the ivy clad oak. Ahh.. very beautiful but was near the water bath we leave out where there had been a flock of pretty long tailed tits. He has also spotted a mistle or song thrush preening itself in the trees. turdus viscivorus or turdus philomelos. These have become quite rare in the UK and we have not seen many here either so that was welcome,

Below is a beautiful festoon butterfly or l’arlequin in Spanish – Zerynthia rumina. We saw this on the ground and just missed treading on it thanks again to my husbands sharp eyes. He is definitely a bird and small animal spotter. This butterfly is now quite rare in Spain. Its caterpillar feed on the rather dainty dutchman’s pipe or aristolochia pistolachia. A plant quite easily missed but very important for this butterfly’s lifecycle. One of our naturalist friends was very angry once when trying to raise the chrysalis of these butterflies to improve numbers. Just on hatching near her lab there was a lot of gylyphosate spraying where the plants for the eggs ad the caterpillars grow. Hopefully now there is more awareness of the needs of different animals and their ecosystems and use of such pesticides is being phased out.

With March being wet we have spent a lot more time inside and so I have read on with War and Peace and am now halfway through this tome I read all those years ago. There is so much more to understand now and I am always googling the place names to know where everything is. Although when I first read this in the 1970’s the Nuclear Arms Race and Mutually Assured Destruction were key concepts and real threats.

I began re reading this before the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia and will admit was a little bored by the opening with the high society of Moscow and St Petersburg. War and Peace is set during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, just over 200 years ago. As I invest again in the characters and am reminded of some incidents I am more aware this time of the sections about war. For one of the main characters, the idealist Pierre Bezuhov his desire for a universal truth and humanity still shines as he is undermined by fellow freemasons who belong to the order merely for self advancement and not for ideas of universal peace. It is also about War and Love as there is a lot of falling in love and betrayal in the high ranks of Russian society.

But does this book give me insights into the Russian mindset? I think not but it certainly portrays the society of the rich and powerful and the personal and public politics are something Tolstoy does comment on in many different ways. At the moment I am gripped as the Russian army retreats to Moscow and the devastation brought by armies and war affects all of the people in its path. Tolstoy did not like the politics that drove these wars and I feel clearly puts this forward and also shows an understanding of those with no power – the ordinary soldiers and the peasants. The character Pierre has large estates he inherited in the regions around Kiev/Kyiv and his desire is to give freedom to the serfs who work on his land. Tolstoy shows how Pierre’s idealism can be corrupted by those ready to take advantage. It took until the 1860s for this feudal lord and bonded worker/slave/serf to be overcome.

The bitter irony now is the impact of modern warfare on people in the neighbouring Ukraine and who once would have fought as part of the Russian army against Napoleon and Hitler. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a call for both peace and justice.

Reading for me is a way into other worlds, places, people and I have always enjoyed fiction books about the places I have visited or lived in. In that respect good translations are needed so we can have insights into different ways of being and thinking in this world,

I wanted to refer to Margaret21s Bookstack Challenge in response the war in the Ukraine and chose 5 books from my shelves.https://margaret21.com/2022/03/09/bookstack-challenge/

And https://bookishbeck.wordpress.com/2022/03/07/solidarity-with-ukraine/

It turned out like this.

The Blind Assassin followed by The Dark Night of the Soul. These two might speak for themselves but as like so many books on shelves I have not read this Margaret Atwood novel…yet! But have dipped into this psychology book of the suffering mind and soul. El Otro Arbol de Guernica- The Other Tree of Guernica where Hitler ‘practised bombing civilians in the town of Guernica – as a warning of modern firepower from the sky and support for a military coup. After this trial came the Blitz and the new warfare against civilians which tragically continues today.

Kate Adie as a well known journalist and often on the frontline this book does show the compassion of humans often in very difficult circumstances. Tolle’s book has a spiritual consciousness based slant towards the kinder world that we need to work towards within us and without us. Let’s hope that we will come through this madness of March 2022 and really work towards the change needed for peace and prosperity for all life on earth. War and Peace went missing from my shelves and am reading it with kindle but it would be there!

And in order to end with a celebration of the natural world below are 5 books from my shelves that have influenced my writing about nature.

Tarka the Otter was a book I read as a child and did reread while I was writing my novel about the animal world. Williamson was suffering from trauma from WW1 and cared for a wild otter that disappeared one day. In his search for this loss arose the novel about Tarka. Not an easy read but well worth it for understanding the life and trials of otters as they were hunted to extinction in the UK. There is recovery now and even a few beavers.

The Cloud Spotters Guide was given to me by a good friend and it does balance understanding the technical formation of clouds and their names with art and literature. So we were well suited.

Spiritual Ecology is a collection of essays about our relationship with the natural world. Joanna Macey has an article and one of her workshops inspired me to write this blog about nature.

The Genius of Birds was another gift from a friend who read my novel in one of its early drafts. The book takes you into all the latest research on birds and their intelligence and social groupings.

Weeds and Wild flowers by Alice Oswald was a major inspiration for me to write poetry. Ms Peony Broteri is the poem in its first form featured early on this blog and about this time as the wild peonies are just budding and ready to bloom for April and May

.https://navasolanature.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/a-fertile-feeling-ms-peoni-broteri-getting-ready-for-rebirth/

The missing book is Wildwood by Roger Deakin and must be on another shelf in the UK or I gave it away. Roger Deakin spans walnut wood for Jaguar cars, the wood sculptor David Nash, the wild origins of apple trees in Kyrgystan and Australian aborigine culture. This book led me to Robert Macfarlane’s writing and in particular Wild Places and the beautiful Lost Words for children and the young at heart.

In difficult days when all seems mad there is much to inspire us and give hope and each little drop of kindness to others will give rise to a more peaceful and just world. Solidarity with all suffering from war and the after effects and all those needing climate justice.

Wild peony forest January/February
Peony bud March to April

Poem 15. The Pond and a Shining Moment. 26 poem challenge.

This is a poem about our pond which took a long time to create but now gives a lot of joy and a habitat for many and drinking water for the birds and bees. It is also inspired by Lilian’s haibun prompt for Dverse poets and for open link night. Hope all Dverse poets have a good summer break and a Happy Anniversary for July 13 th. Thanks for all the inspiration.

The haibun form consists of 3 short authentic paragraphs, not fiction and completed with a haiku. Lilian gives some interesting advice on using a kiku , a nature/ time/ season key word, followed by an insight. https://dversepoets.com/2020/06/22/traditional-writing-on-a-shining-topic/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pond and a Shining Moment

The thin walls of the old house crumbled as the digger gently pushed. Stronger wider ones needed to be built to hold up a new roof. The man with the digger was only hired for two days but he was willing to dig out a hole for a pond for an extra 80 euros. We jumped at the offer. We wanted a wildlife pond. There was no running stream here, all the water was underground, sinking fast through sandy soil in the torrential rains after months of Mediterranean drought. The pond was excavated and then I decided to dig, deeper and wider and bring wheelbarrows full of good deep soil to my new vegetable plot up the hill. An open air muscle building gym.

The pond was downhill but became an uphill struggle. For two years it filled with rain water and the second year was so full and overflowing in May but by September was drained and the lining destroyed. Wild boar had one too many mud baths with tusk marks slashed through plastic. A new plan was devised of a boarproof fence, similar to the one around my vegetable garden. There was also so much wild plum growing that without removal this area would become a dense thicket. We worked to clear and have been rewarded with a meadow of wild flowers and the beginnings of more life in the pond with its now very expensive aquatic liner. We hoped for the croak of frogs.

His joy this lockdown spring has been to walk down from the house to the pond. His walk now is slower, unsteady. A virus, some years back, perhaps produced this change. Or so the experts say, but they do not really know. Once able to walk far and work on our new roof, now, he struggles to walk any distance. But the pond beckons, and with binoculars and a fence to lean on, he looks intently around. First he spotted one frog and then another. They seemed to be keeping their distance. At last shining, shimmering in the light, perfectly camouflaged with their dark green back stripe, they have their moment, and we have ours.

Light falls on Lily
Bees buzz: slippery limbs
Entwine hold hope tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will include this in my 26 poetry poem as a habitat for a variety of species including the Iberian frog, plenty of pond skaters, beetles, a lily and other water plants, reeds, dragonflies and lots of bees. The pond has attracted the birds for water and baths, including a flycatcher or papamoscas in Spanish. Around the pond there is now a real variety of many wild flowers.

Thanks again to Dverse poets who reignited my love of writing and playing with poetry.

I am half way through my challenge and half way to my charity target. Please follow the Just giving link if you would like to sponsor me on behalf of a wildlife, nature charity. The RSPB and Birdlife International.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/georginas-26-challenge-i-am-going-to-write-26-poems-about-the-wild-flora-and-fauna-here-on-our-woodland-finca-in-spain-i-will-post-these-on-my-blogs

Spring in the Sierra Aracena

On the 30th April in Sweden it is Walpurgis Night and time to celebrate the beginning of Spring for the First of May. Anna’s blog has some interesting insights into this festival and of course her wonderful art work.
https://fargaregardsanna.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/walpurgis-night-valborg/

Even though this April seems to be going on the record for Spain’s coldest since 1974 , here in the south of Spain we have had glimpses of Spring. The variability and size of Spain means that there can be variation in the weather but this year the news is showing snow today in Cantabria and people sunbathing on the Mediterranean coast!

Iberian frog enjoying plentiful water and sunshine.

At Navasola we are lucky to have had so much rainfall after the drought that lasted throughout the summer and into the winter. Spring has brought much needed rain. One Spanish programme seemed to be suggesting that the reservoirs were now back to capacity. And there’s still some more rain due! These photos are from early April and at a friend’s finca on the warmer south facing side of the valley. Signs of butterflies, bees and blossom are always welcome.

The Easter celebrations went smoothly in the town of Aracena and it is amazing the dedication and work that goes into the Holy Week processions. The story of the Passion is brought onto the streets and is both a religious and cultural occasion.

It takes at least 5 x 5 pairs of feet to carry the float. And all around the town too!

And the band keeps playing!

Continue reading Spring in the Sierra Aracena

Blogging with boars, birds and bunnies!

A week of changes. Changing places and changing weather.

Just before leaving Navasola I wandered into my huerta or vegetable garden. I wanted to check on the plants. I am hoping that I have created enough paths and cut back grasses and vetch to keep it all more under control. Last year when I returned in May I posted about my ‘Wild Welcome Back’. I was overwhelmed with neck high grass,vetch and then hay fever.

Maybe this time I  had a wild  farewell.

There were rustling sounds from within the abandoned olive grove. I stood very still and listened. I thought it might have been some noisy blackbirds. It often is! To my surprise a large female boar made her way into the field. Although there was a ‘boar proof fence’ between us to protect the huerta, I didn’t want to see it tested. I stood very still. Females are said to have a reputation. Following  her were three slightly smaller wild boar. Then one by one, a group of stripy baby boar trotted in. No camera,  no  phone, just me and the boar family.

Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.
Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.

I stood still and watched them move around grazing and looking like large dogs. The youngsters climbed up over some rocks. I just kept still, not daring to move and too far from the gate.Then the large female saw me. She came forward a little and but decided to turn away and run off, with the young ones following. It was quite a sight. Reading up a bit more I discovered that these groups are matriarchal and called sounders.They consist of the very young and slightly older females.It is far more common that boar will run away but it seems they may move towards you a little as their eyesight is so poor and they are curious. Most injuries to humans from boar are during a hunt and with the males turning to defend themselves if cornered.

After this event we were off to Portugal for my flight. I had a quick check on the house martins I am trying to survey. There are not so many on the frontline this year but these small birds were working hard with the mud to build over netting put up to prevent them. I had been disappointed to see this attempt to deter them in a local street.They certainly wouldn’t have bothered anyone in that location and it now looks quite unsightly. It also might mean the nests are less secure for the young. The birds are undeterred and determined to build in places they must remember. Those whose nests had not been destroyed have had a head start. I think they have got young and these might manage two broods.

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Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.
Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Dorset we had snow and hail, lots of birds and a vole. The bullfinch is a regular visitor at my friend’s  bird feeders, along with a nuthatch and some pheasants. After the snow a kestrel came by but the birds had disappeared into the nearby hedgerow.

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Sculptur of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.
Sculpture of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.

Back in London I was shown the video of the baby robins nesting in the ivy by the house and at least two are now alive and well, feeding in the garden.  My daughter has fallen in love with feeding the birds and they seem to reward her. I was also updated with the slow motion function on the latest  phones. Mine is too out of date but it was lovely to see they had captured the garden Robin flying! Sorry no video as I have to update WordPress and pay money to upload a video! Will think on’t!

Baby robins by back door in London
Baby robins by back door in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am in the north of the U.K. and enjoying my other daughter’s young pet bunnies. These bunnies seem to want to blog with me!

 

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To be close to the animal world seems important. My wilder world of Navasola is still without pets and the wild ones choose their moments. Mice in the middle of the night and a mongoose went up through my rock garden one evening. The wild ones like to be invisible and secretive  but it is good to know they are out there.Not in the house! Four mice have been ‘humanely’ removed to at least 1 km away!

Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.
Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny friends!
Bunny friends!

I am off to stay with a friend in Rhodes so hope to keep up with blogging about the flora and fauna there soon. I may not be on wifi much but hope to catch up with everyone’s blogs again soon too.

 

 

Frosty days at Navasola. Dog days and more plumbing!

Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.
Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.

When there’s a dog about, an early morning walk is required. I have just spent a week looking after my friend Ruth’s adorable Tibetan terrier Lotti. I think I do miss having a dog but this is a gentle reminder of the responsibilities. It was one of those glorious sunny early mornings. There was so much frost on the ground too. So I set off with dog and camera. At times no one believes how cold it can be here at night in Southern Spain but we are high up at 740m and on the north side of the Sierra Aracena. I have lost some good plants to the frost; an hibiscus, kalanchoe and aloe vera. However, the native plants are the survivors and the viburnum is always half in bud and flower at this time of year.

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Hurry up it's cold sitting here!
Hurry up it’s cold sitting here!

We walked up to the Era where the grain used to be threshed. It’s also where I have taken photographs of the butterflies in May. It was very frosty. Lotti was eager to walk on but I was busy trying some close ups of frosty plants.bl frost on leaves frosty days end Feb march 2016 037

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We moved on to reach the gate. The sun was beginning to get a bit higher and warmer.

early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola
early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola

The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.
The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Project.

Trevor has been working on a method to heat the water when the weather finally warms up in Spring and lighting a fire will no longer be necessary. Hopefully then I will also be released from the endless trips to the wood pile and the relentless work with the many branches of wood, fallen or from pruned trees. Over the last week he worked with a friend and plumber on putting a radiator, painted black, on our roof. It needs quite complicated controls and a pump. The two worked together discussing the intricacies of this system and the financial markets. Most people we encounter in the Sierra have interesting histories and ideas! Hopefully the solar radiator will add some heat to the tank. It can reach up to 100 degrees so the system has to prevent boiling.bl solar thermal radiator frosty days end Feb march 2016 097bl plumbing frosty days end Feb march 2016 068bl trev and Richard frosty days end Feb march 2016 070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun has been brilliant the last few days and warm during the day. This has been welcome after quite a few cloudy and cold February days. Now with clear skies the stars are also very visible. Saturn is in the east, Sirius bright and just below Orion.  Polaris and the Great Bear as always in the North! The flowers and birds will be the subject of the next post. Although still wintry there are signs of Spring. Thanks for reading and hope Spring is soon with you if you abide in the Northern hemisphere of this amazing planet.

Oh to be in England: Yorkshire Wolds and Ways. Botany and Barn Owls.

There surely is no better time to be in England than Springtime. And the  Robert Browning poem resonates with me as there is such beauty in the English countryside and I do sometimes long for the green, vibrant and cool UK spring. But I don’t long for the tensions of countryside politics and various interest groups pitted against each other. I was also frustrated with a General Election Campaign that seemed to constantly avoid the environmental challenges we should be talking about and dealing with.

For various reasons we had spent longer than expected in the UK but this also meant we could travel further afield through the fields and discover some of the delights of Spring and meet up more with friends and family. I was also able to familiarise myself with more of the wild flowers here in the UK at this time of year.

The May in May. Hawthorn blossom
The May in May. Hawthorn blossom.

Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic

Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard
Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard. another blog helped me identify this and had not heard the Jack name before.

The Yorkshire Wolds might not seem so dramatic as the moorlands of Bronte and Railway children fame but David Hockney captured their beauty on his return to the UK and during his stay in his home town of Bridlington. When I saw his exhibition in London I also had thought of retracing his ways through the Yorkshire wolds and we did this about two years ago. It is an area of Yorkshire I love and lived near for a while. http://www.yocc.co.uk

Cowslips by Skidby Mill.
Cowslips by Skidby Mill.

Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!
Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!

We managed a trip into the past of Skidby Mill and Beverley and then to see Zara the horse in her grand estate. There’s an old fashioned stable block and then woodland and parkland all around. For early May this was filled with wild garlic which stretched deep into the woods. At Skidby Mill there was an insight into the past and some milling of flour still goes on. The cowslips were out in the field by the mill and I had also learnt how to adjust contrast on the iPad!I had left the camera behind again as had done a lot of traveling by train. http://www.museums.eastriding.gov.uk

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Zara in the stable.
Zara in the stable.

Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton
Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton

Barn Owl Beauty

There are some shots though that can never be captured but can be etched into the memory. As we were returning along one of the high roads across the gentle wolds from Scarborough I saw my first wild barn owl in flight along the hedgerow. As there were gulls galore in Scarborough I was transfixed by the strange shape in the distance. Just all wrong for a gull! As I drove nearer the Barn Owl it was very clear and it was flying along the hedgerow towards us and we passed quite close. It certainly wasn’t bothered by the car or was more intent on prey. I wanted to pull over and stop and glancing in the rear mirror saw the car close behind. When I glanced again the Barn Owl had turned around and was as flying back after the car. In my rear view window I had such a good glimpse of the wide face. Thankfully there was no one in front of me as I did linger a little too long looking backwards until the Barn Owl suddenly swooped down behind the hedge and into the field. Hopefully it had a good meal.

My own Barn Owl taken and on the screen of my iphone 2 years ago!
My own Barn Owl  photo taken and on the screen of my iphone about two years ago!

Barn Owl numbers in the UK were in rapid decline but there has been a great effort to reverse this and there have been successes as farmers, landowners, conservationists and many others have invested in ensuring there are nest boxes and suitable habitats. It seems so essential that party politics are set aside and all work together to ensure species survive and our planet maintains its glorious diversity. There have also been surveys and monitoring since 1932 but by the late 1980s numbers were reported to have dropped from between 5 to 9000 down to 1.400. There is now a national survey called Project Barn Owl and over many more nest sites that are monitored.  Numbers have recovered but changes in climate and very wet weather can adversely affect the Barn Owl as rain does impair flight and the ability to hunt. 2013/14 and all the flooding was not a good time for them.  http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/

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However I carry around with me on my iphone one of the first photos I took with it and edited for the screen. So everyday I have the face of a Barn Owl looking out on me!  So I come full circle with my close encounters with the wild. This was taken at a British Wildlife Centre where rescued wildlife from these shores are kept and it does allow us to get up close to the secretive animals who try to live with us on this densely populated island.

Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre
Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre

Honeymoon Highs and Lows. A Garden trail at Woburn, Bedfordhire, UK. Ipad photos, Sequoias and smiles!

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View towards house from Japanese Gardens.

When finding myself magically whisked away up the M1 motorway to Bedford we were then happy to stroll along the river and old market town and just relax after some weeks of busyness in London. I was also pleased to find Woburn Abbey nearby which I hadn’t visited since a childhood camping trip with my parents on the trusty steed, my father’s Harley D and side car. My love of the countryside was born from many of these family outings. The highlights were finding ourselves on the garden trail of Woburn Abbey Gardens, the low, the light was overcast and a cold wind and no camera. But I decided to try the iPad. So the following are my attempts on a more tricky and slippery camera in low light conditions. Inspiration to post was thinking about the blog of GardenWalk and GardenTalk and being on the trail of many of her fascinating blogs based in the USA. http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com  There are so many wonderful gardens in wet and green old England and of course, Scotland and Wales. So here is a share on this one while in the UK. Woburn was one of the first stately homes to open to the public in the 1960s and the estate and gardens had been designed by one of the first and foremost landscape designers Humphrey Repton in the 1800s.  Another high was to see some ‘young’ giant redwoods, very tall and planted in the late 1800s when it became a fashion and they were named after Wellington.  Low down I found some of the wild dead nettles ( slightly different from my wild ones in Spain in earlier post) and a tiny cone from the mighty tall tree. This has set me off on some research on Redwoods. In 1999 I visited the Coastal Redwoods near San Francisco when I didn’t know much about John Muir or the different types of redwood. We enjoyed the cathedral of redwoods but I remembering wondering why they weren’t as gigantic girth wise as seen on old pictures! I now realise why.  On exploring these trees in the UK a few years ago we found an avenue planted not far from Windsor in memory of Wellington. His name was to be used in the latin and the trees in the UK are sometimes referred to as Wellingtonia but Sequoia  has prevailed. There is a fascinating website on Redwoods in the UK. This can help you find some of these great trees but at present none will achieve the width of the mighty ones in the USA. They can live for 1000s of years! The Kew Gardens website also helped me understand the differences between these species, leaves and cones. It is always useful for identification or confusion over names and of course Kew also has one of these giants. The walk through the gardens was fascinating and showed the love of plants and trees collected and planted out in different ways. Influences from China, USA, Japan, blossoms and Tulip trees. The ancient weeping beech grove, hornbeam maze and sculptures. We just managed to see the Camellias still blooming in the conservatory. A special day.

Sequoiadendron giganteum

Wild dead nettle and Wellingtonia cone.

Magnolia time
M Magnolia time

Where's the bee? There is one!
Where’s the bee?

Heather and blossoms
Heather and blossoms and IPad cover getting in the way and cold hands!

Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Grove of weeping beech trees and wild cowslip

Camellia in Camellia conservatory

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Selfie in Woburn Abbey Gardens.

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Some Victoriana and shelter from the rain and chilly wind.

A fertile feeling: Ms Peoni Broteri getting ready for rebirth!

Our wild child Ms Peony Broteri is now settling down for the winter with hopefully tubers deep down by the chestnut tree roots and the seeds hidden away. Have been told the seeds can take two years to birth into another wild and seductive Ms Peony.

Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest
January/February

The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.

Ms Peony chatterbox
Ms Peony chatterbox in  Autumn

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October

Green Cities: Life under the flight path to London Heathrow. People need green cities and wildlife too.

For all of my life and bringing up my children I have lived under the main HeathroSutton Park, West London, Green suasage shape from planes landing and on North side.w flight path as for all those who live in West London near the River Thames and the Great West Road. On my brief return to West London for the course at Kew Gardens I walked around many of the green spaces and streets I have known well. Spring was out with a blossoming vengeance. I took some photos on and early evening walk around Heston.

The first is from Sutton Park which can be seen as a green sausage from planes flying into Heathrow when quite low, only a few minutes to landing. Here this vast green is surrounded by houses and seems to be loved by the Heston Starling community. I saw quite a few in the trees and Starlings like grassy spaces but could adjust to city life if they scavenge more.

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The street trees were full of Cherry blossom and the particular street shown was where we first lived. One of the first notices to come through the door was a tree preservation order. visited a friend and cut a small twig to draw on my course! The magnolias were also out and though short lived there are still many in gardens. It made me think how beautiful Heston could be in the Spring but also how stunning it must have been when everyone cared for their gardens and there were no drives. Heston was developed from orchards in the 1920s into a  garden suburb for those who could afford to move out of the crowded terrace streets of inner London! Now every bit of open space is under pressure for new housing.

Two places and people close to my heart are of course my daughters and many memories of Barnes Common and walking through with my daughters and dogs. This is a borrowed one!Barnes Common is a historic green space kept as common land for all us commoners but now it is not sheep but dogs, people and varied wildlife that need this open space

 

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And the photo below is  the cherry tree in the Brentford and Isleworth Quaker Meeting House garden, a sacred space from the 1700s.  And my daughters under the tree on Mother’s day.  I am now back at Navasola in Spain and miss some aspects of my London life, but not work! ( Also not sure why I had to copy the images instead of adding them and photos not so sharp) And the last photo, now working again and not having to copy is of  a Seville roof garden, from the amazing wooden sculpture of Mushroom design above  the Plaza Encarnacion. A place for great views of Seville.

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Kew Gardens, Botany, Illustrations and a visit to the Herbarium

 

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The Tropical Palm House, Kew Gardens, March 2014

Willow sculptures at end of day, Mach 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day,Kew Gardens March 2014

It has been an intense two weeks at Kew on the botanical illustration course and although it was daunting to work along side trained artists there were also some beginners similar to myself. The aim was to learn some of the skills needed so that I can try and draw some of the wild flowers at Navasola ; to keep a record and to learn to identify plants more. My memories of Kew do go back a long way as we lived nearby and as a family would visit often when it was about a penny or an old threepenny coin? I also did a weekend job waitressing in the restaurant near the Temperate House and saved my pennies and tips for my trip to India! Its now quite expensive to visit Kew Gardens so it is worth being a member and the work that Kew does is so much more than just having a really amazing collection of plants and trees and the cost of just the upkeep of that. Conservation and saving endangered plants, horticulture, Plant studies, DNA, diseases and more….

A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!
A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!

Our teacher, Lucy Smith is a professional botanical illustrator and specialises in palms. I visited the palm house at lunch time as it was warm and a break was needed ! The  first photo of the Palm House and daffodils was taken at the end of a hardworking day drawing leaves in Museum No 1 near the famous Palm Glasshouse. The shapes of the palms looked grand and ghostly against the stormy evening sunset. I also found a lot of information about Paeonies in the horticulture gardens and a lot of examples of plants we find in Southern Spain.

Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.
Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.

A lot of work behind the scenes goes on at the Herbarium and we were given a fascinating tour by a long serving Mexican botanist whose specialism was in the vast leguminosae or pea family. The Herbarium is a library of plant specimens and it is vast. Kew also promotes a lot of art work and installations.

Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.
Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

Last year I joined again because of the David Nash wood sculptures and this year there are some fascinating willow sculptures. Kew always has such variety and this year I found all the different varieties of flowering cherry trees. Kew works hard to conserve wild plants and the seed bank has been set up and attempts are made to propagate endangered species like the Madagascan palm that Lucy Smith had illustrated.

One of Kew's famous historic trees, the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine which there are so many of in  parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
One of Kew’s famous historic trees, the Stone Pine( Pinus pinea) or Umbrella Pine of which there are so many  in parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!

Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name! Retama  sahaerocarpa,  Family Leguminosae  papilionoideae.

 

 

have just about survived the course and will add some more details of that later and the beauty of suburban London in the Spring. Maybe a Spring poem is needed along the following lines and in memory of Robert Browning’s famous Oh to be in England, now that April’s here……..

Oh to be in London when the daffodils are out

And the streets with cherry blossoms…….

Hide the gardens turned to drives!