27 May 2015

Incredible showing of bluebells this year

The actual flower is the plant’s highest fulfilment, and are not here exclusively for herbaria, county floras and plant geography: they are here first of all for delight.   John Ruskin

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an especially generous showing of snowdrops outside the house this year, probably some fabulous Mother Nature alchemy using the weather and conditions in the year since they last flowered.  It seems that same combination of climate and rainfall etc. has worked wonders with other plants too.

Gorgeous woodland bluebells in golden evening spring sunshine.
Gorgeous woodland bluebells in golden evening spring sunshine.

Having looked at the Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast, we decided that Saturday evening was going to be our best option to get to our favourite spot for some quality R&R – that usually entails a decent walk through woodland, a picnic at the car followed by a combination of drinking coffee, reading, gawping out of the car window, looking at stuff through binoculars – well, that’s me at least.  He on the other hand does coffee and snoring, not necessarily in that order.

We set off with picnic food in the car boot as the light cloud of the day evaporated and gave rise to a gorgeous spring evening, suggesting that our choice of day was indeed well selected.  Unfortunately, the plans were scuppered somewhat when a work problem arose – he does on-call duties – and this wasn’t even meant to be his weekend.  But as is often the case, the more you want a quiet time or have plans, the more likely the phone is to go bonkers.

I absolutely love to see bluebells growing in woodland.
I absolutely love to see bluebells growing in woodland.

We’ve decided over the years that once the phone goes with one problem, it then tends to escalate into something ridiculous, the opening of some telephonic floodgates.  If it’s quiet for a while, it tends to remain quiet.  Thus it was on Saturday, once one problem surfaced, then the phone would just not let up.  So our walk was abandoned and the remainder of our activity punctuated by calls, texts and e-mails.  So I did take advantage and took a short walk myself to take some photos in the lovely golden evening sun.

The last remnants of evening sun in the area just catching the trees, it must have been glorious earlier in the day with better light.
The last remnants of evening sun in the area just catching the trees, it must have been glorious earlier in the day with better light.

The route we drive takes us past a little corner which usually has a few bluebells growing amongst the trees.  It’s almost always late in the day when we pass, when the sun has long gone off this area, so we knew they’d be in shadow when we got there.  But we were pretty astonished to see the showing of colour we saw, it’s normally quite a scrubby patch – lovely in itself, but not the most vibrant patch we know.    But it looked gorgeous, enough so that I actually got out to walk along and take some photos.  The land drops away from the road surface and I could see that there were more spilling over that edge, so some of the photos were taken with the camera above my head at arms length, using the tilting back screen to try and frame the shot and get as many of them into view as possible.

Vibrant gorse in flower at the hedgerow.  The farmland behind it makes a nice backdrop too.
Vibrant gorse in flower at the hedgerow. The farmland behind it makes a nice backdrop too.

We were forced to stop a mile or two further on as the phone was going again, so I jumped out to enjoy the peace and quiet.  I’d heard somewhere on TV recently, on something like Countryfile, that the gorse was especially vibrant this year and I’ve certainly noticed that myself.  Not only are the flowers particularly dense in their coverage, but the yellow is a lovely deep golden colour too.  I don’t know if the weather affects this, or more likely the soil it’s in, but sometimes it seems a much more acid and light yellow.

The early evening and lower sun of the golden hour certainly enriches the colour and it was a treat to stop and enjoy it all with very little to disturb the quiet save for the sound of birds and lambs and an occasional distant tractor.

Cuckoo Flowers, so delicate and pretty.  We often see them growing in grass verges, as these were.
Cuckoo Flowers, so delicate and pretty. We often see them growing in grass verges, as these were.

There have always been Cuckoo flowers in this area and they too were especially robust, with large heads of flowers and in this case, it even looks to have double flowers.  They often grow just at the side of the road, I think water must accumulate a little there with the grasses, as they seem to like it  a little boggy. I’ve always thought that they must propagate along the roadside when passing vehicles woosh the seeds along the verge.

We also had three other lovely wildlife treats, along with amusing ourselves for some time watching the evening shenanegans of young lambs playing.  I’ve never quite understood why lambs congregate in an evening and run up and down en masse and search out the tallest bits of earth to stand on, jostling for top spot.  There doesn’t seem to be much preparation for adult-life purpose in it, but it’s lovely to watch, I’ll never tire of it.

Whilst watching the lambs through binoculars, I also spotted the movement of a hare in my field of view.  It was the same field I watched them chasing around over Easter and at one time I ended up with 4 individuals in my field of view.  No chasing or boxing this time, they largely had their heads down eating, but still a rare treat nonetheless.  We also saw the same kestrel overhead looking for supper and as we were packing up to leave, a movement to one side caught my eye and a barn owl was flying past.  Close enough that we didn’t hear a sound from him and I didn’t want to look away to grab the camera as it was going to be all too fleeting and I wanted to just enjoy it.

Vibrant yellow gold gorse flowers in the evening sunshine.
Vibrant yellow gold gorse flowers in the evening sunshine.


An especially vibrant showing of buebells this year.  What could be lovelier.
An especially vibrant showing of buebells this year. What could be lovelier.


7 May 2012

Woodland pretties

We did one of our favourite walks this Sunday, one we can do from the front door. Our son was visiting for the day with his girlfriend and it’s a pretty spot at this time of year, so was an ideal pre-lunch appetiser.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view. If your browser has the option to open the image in a new tab, you’ll get to see them at the size I prepared them.

Added later: I finally got to identify this plant, it just didn’t appear in any of my wildflower books – it would appear that it’s Water Avens (Geum rivale) a member of the rose family – I was wrongly thinking it was a geranium/cranesbill variety.

My husband and I did the same walk last Saturday and then it was bitterly cold in a very brisk wind (and we were jolly glad of hats, scarves and gloves) and was threatening rain the entire time and did in fact make good on that threat as we walked the last 20 yards to the front door. We’d commented that there were likely to be a lot of bluebells and that they were only just starting to flower.

After a week of sunny spells and lots of rain, they’ve positively romped away this week, along with several other woodland pretties; there were splashes of blue, pink and yellow amongst the gorgeous vibrant spring green emerging foliage and unfurling fern fronds. It was significantly more colourful than a mere 8 days ago.

It’s one of my very favourite things, to see woodland flowers at this time of year, before the greenery has really taken off and hides some of the more delicate ground-hugging species.

The walk was pretty dark initially, but as we returned, the sun came out again and I was able to grab a few photographs toward the end of the walk. If we get a nice spell this week, I’ll walk that way on my own and spend more time getting some closer shots, there are some side paths that meander through the trees, so I can get deeper into the woodland and closer to the patches of bluebells.

The primroses are a slight cheat in that I took these photographs earlier in the week. I especially like this patch as they’re growing on top of a wall, so I don’t need to grovel in the mud to photograph them and I also get to smell them too – they have a lovely delicate fragrance, which we don’t always get to appreciate as they grow so low.

My work this week:

I’ve finished several pieces – and that’s the fun part – getting them all photographed and listed isn’t quite as much fun – but something I will have to face in the next few days. I was in the mood for making something with beads – after I’d bought some very pretty colours on Etsy for use with copper. Although, as luck would have it, I didn’t use as may of those as I started out expecting to – I veered off on a tangent somewhat.

I was looking for some components in my box of assorted things that didn’t quite make it into a finished piece yet and a combination of shapes falling together in front of me gave me the idea for this wrapped wire loop bail – allowing me to combine a spiralled wire bail loop with a large eye to decorate with beaded dangles. The central focal bead is an odd colour, it looks very orange in daylight (and my daylight photography light) and yet quite a buttery yellow in artificial light – and in which light, the greens I accented with the faceted Czech glass donuts are rather more prominent too. I topped it with a copper clay bead cap and matched it with a pair of delicate green beads on some matching chain links.

These eye links are a shape I made often, early in my jewellery making career, as fancy headpins, but I was trying to fashion an art deco/nouveau stylised rose for a particular idea and these came back to mind. So I’ve put together 3 hammered links in these antiqued copper earrings.

Another variant of the wrapped loop bail eye, adorned with assorted purple glass and amethyst beads and a single flower-imprinted dangle, made in copper clay.

I used the same ‘eye’ links in these feature earwires for these copper clay spiral oval earrings.

My next blog . . .

. . . will be a work in progress (WIP) report on this necklace and earring set. They’re made with copper clay and wire, then antiqued and coloured. I’ve taken a series of photographs as I made them and want to show the amount of work and processes involved in creating pieces like this.

7 May 2011

The best holiday weather since 1996

That says it all doesn’t it – that I can actually remember the last holiday we had with really great weather – and not that recently either.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
On the Good Friday bank holiday we hit heavy traffic and were held up for some time – Herdwick ewes being moved into pastures closer to the farm ready to have their lambs. Mr Boo christened this photo “Where’s Woolly?”

This was taken over a week later, but only a few yards away so may well be one of the Herdwick ewes above being brought down to lamb. Each ewe only has a single black lamb.

We’ve just spent the extended Easter, Royal Wedding and May Bank Holiday period in the English Lake District and with the exception of one evening with a short-lived downpour – late enough that we’d already drawn the curtains and washed up from dinner, so it really didn’t trouble us – and one day that was grey and drizzly, we had wall to wall sunshine for the entire 12 days.

I’ve always had a bit of a fixation about sunlight through trees, it’s just one of my very favourite things.

Where we stay in a permanent static caravan on a working farm, the bedroom window is on the north east face of the structure and if I wake up with the sun on my face, we know it’s a good start. Unfortunately, that’s a somewhat rarer experience that I’d personally like. Every morning, bar one, the sun kissed my cheeks as the alarm went off. Fabulous.

Ramsen / wild garlic; the hedgerows and woodland were thick with it – the flowers just opening – it gives off a gorgeous sweet garlic smell if you brush the leaves as you pass.

But then you have to get up and to it quite promptly as long, static, metal caravans in full sunshine soon turn into baking tins and whilst the day might start with temperatures close to frost-inducing, the air warms alarmingly rapidly as the sun rises and heats the metal sides.

Our neighbour during our stay – taken through the kitchen window – this spot, nestled against one of the damson trees in the orchard, was a morning favourite as the sun warmed up. Soon after I took this, his brother sidled over and snuggled up next to him.

But it is fabulous to eat breakfast with the patio doors wide open and looking out onto the scenery with the spring breeze playing around you.

One of the very most important things to me is walking through woodland and it was just about perfect last week.

A rare moment of stillness in an otherwise very breezy period.

Walking through woodland along a lake shore and coming across small private (albeit rocky) beaches periodically to perch, catch your breath and admire the view, is about a perfect way to spend a spring day.

The weather was just about perfect for us, lots of sunshine, but cool air and on some days, a distinctly brisk and chilly breeze. Just ideal for getting out and walking, although our lunchtime picnics were a little more lively than ideal on some days. When your crisps blow off your plate and you have to hold bread down, you know it’s time to retreat indoors to eat. Al fresco dining; I love it.

I wish I could have captured the fragrance for you too. There are few things more perfect to enjoy than dappled sunlight on deciduous ancient woodland with masses of wild bluebells.

The trees pretty much fully opened from bud within the time we were there and there’s this short period each spring when the trees are this most magnificent luminous bright spring green – the foliage in the sunlight last week was breathtakingly gorgeous – beech trees especially are the most vibrant fresh colour. Foliage is pristine and un-ravaged by weather, disease or insects and at its most perfect – combined with the lovely clear air and sunshine, the Lakes were about as beautiful as I’ve ever seen them – and I’ve spent a lot of my life there in just about every possible set of conditions.

When we arrived, most of the ferns and brackens were unfurling and within a week, were all totally open

I wish I could share with you the fabulous fresh air, scent of the bluebells and the invigorating freshness of woodland in sunshine, but I’ll just have to leave you with the photos and your imagination will have to fill in the rest. There’s a more complete set of photographs in my image sharing gallery.

I love to sit on this seat around a tree and view the fabulous rock garden with its gorgeous maple trees at Sizergh Castle. I never tire of looking at it.

I love this scene in the castle gardens – the water lillies are just growing.

These flowers are less than an inch in diameter, yet fabulously complex geometric structures.

I was so excited when I came upon this pen of pigs – there must have been 50 assorted pigs of different breeds, colours and sizes, all sunbathing in a pile together – that I almost forgot to take photos – I was too busy trying to stop myself from squealing and jumping up and down in excitement.

Did I mention that I totally love walking through woodland and seeing the sunlight filtering through. I suspect I did.

29 Sep 2010

I can’t imagine life without trees

For me, for the most part, as long as I can periodically escape to some of my favourite spots outdoors and get some fresh air and stretch my legs, I can cope with whatever life throws at me. In tricky times, or with tedious things I have to endure, like dental work or waiting in unsavoury places for overdue buses, I imagine walking through some of my favourite tracts of woodland. It’s something I look forward to intensely when I know I have a trip planned. The mental images and memories of being in places such as the ones shown here, pop into my mind many times a day and I long to be there.

Please click on any of the photographs for a better view, they look rather dark here on the page.

Even on the treadmill at the gym, I position myself on one of the machines near a window where I can see a short run of screening pine trees they’ve planted to separate the tennis courts from the playing fields and picture myself walking through them into more dense deciduous woodland beyond. I just cannot conceive of life without trees and being amongst them. I’m totally comfortable in their company and more at peace than anywhere else.

Early in the walk, a well made path runs level along the lake shore, rising steeply away from it shortly.

If I were given the option to wish myself away to anywhere, it would almost certainly be to one of my favourite woodland walks. Ideally, on a crisp, still, autumnal day with clear blue skies, fabulous views and glorious autumnal colours – even better if the woodland is deciduous or mixed and has a good smattering of beech trees. This particular day it was grey and damp, so the colours are not at their best, but I’d rather be there in rain than most other places on a nice day.

There is a habit in more recent times in managed woodland, to leave some of the trees that have either fallen naturally, or been cleared for management, to rot naturally in the woodland as they would without intervention. This then becomes a habitat to a wide range of plants and insects, adding to the health and biodiversity of the woodland.

I just love the intense array of natural sculpture nature provides us with along the way, partly from human intervention as above, to the natural abstract of the materials of the forest, as below.

The weather doesn’t often play the game, but the venue is much more reliable. I don’t even mind less than perfect weather, sometimes it even has its advantages, well known spots tend to be much quieter, which is always a bonus.

I don’t mind walking in dampness – loving the English Lake District makes this somewhat a necessity – gentle rain certainly won’t stop us from setting off – but driving rain and wind do tend to just spoil things. To quote Billy Connolly, as I have many times; “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.” If you attire yourself accordingly, it doesn’t have to stop you enjoying the outdoors.

One of the few advantages of being that bit more mature, is that you can plan your holidays outside of school holidays when it’s generally much more quiet and often the only people you pass are other mature types taking un-seasonable breaks and local dog-walkers.

Being a lover of and regular visitor to the Lake District, weather does tend to be a factor close to your heart, but we’ve had atrocious weather in summer and lovely weather in spring and autumn, even winter, so the time of year actually seems to matter little – you get what you get.

We’ve just returned from a 4 day break there, it was supposed to have been the start of our 2 week annual holiday, but a whole batch of assorted circumstances meant we had to downgrade it to a short break instead this time. And after a recent health scare and resulting hospital treatment, I was a little below par and my walking a tad less robust, but it actually made my time amongst the trees even more precious, valued and needed. It did me a world of good – woodland rarely fails to restore me.

There are a couple of sweet chestnut trees along this particular path and at this time of year they’re just falling off and opening on the ground. They’re fabulous to look at, nestled amongst fallen leaves, but decidedly hostile for handling. Last year I made the mistake of putting some in a bag to use as photo props, but having strapped it to my camera bag was like a pin cushion when I got back to the car – those interlocking randomly angled spines are incredibly effective defensive weapons.

The photographs on this page were all taken on one walk on Monday along the western shore of Windermere – the largest lake in the English Lake District. The eastern shore is the main holiday area and the best know to most people, but we love the other side – it’s densely wooded and much quieter. This particular estate is owned and managed by the National Trust.

This particular favourite walk, of just under 3 miles, starts flat along the side of the lake and rises and undulates through mixed and established woodland slightly off the lake, dropping back to the lake after about a mile and a third or so – it’s rather more steep in places than the photographs would have you believe.

We have a habit of getting to the point where the path meets a small beach with lots of large rocks, where we perch awhile, watch the boats, feeds some ducks, take some refreshments and then return, whence we came, for lunch back at the car park.

I just love being amongst this sort of mixed and elderly woodland and it’s especially gorgeous in autumn where the mix of beech and oak amongst a whole selection of different spruce and pines makes it an interesting and varied scene.