Goodbye 2016!

So many ups and downs in 2016! It’s been a topsy turvy year – a year of sadness and upsets for my family and a deeply shocking year in global politics. I have travelled through the year with a pervading sense of loss.

But, in the last few days I’ve been indulging myself drawing up a #bestofnine2016 for my Instagram feed. I’ve looked through all the pictures I’ve posted online, and selected the nine pictures that most capture 2016 for me.  It has taken me quite a time to finally make a selection, but it was a good exercise because after that, I didn’t feel so bad. So many little ordinary happinesses and pleasures that I have taken for granted!  Here are my chosen nine:bestofnine2016Top left: That’s my dearest husband Stephen and our lovely cat, Poe, who passed away in her 20th year, this August. This photograph was taken on her last night of life, when we knew she was extremely ill and would have to visit the vet next day, probably to be put down. She is curled up asleep, comfy and trusting, next to Stephen, on the sofa, as she regularly did. RIP Poe, faithful friend.stephen-and-poeTop middle: Lots of little pleasures here. My knitting, my nails – and my travel knitting bag! Those of you who know me well will know I almost always have my nails painted – and doesn’t this colour match the knitting so well! The Solace bag was a generous gift from Rebecca of Needle & Spindle and symbolises to me the constant comfort of knitting, and the friendliness of the wonderful online community of knitters and makers.solace-bag-and-knittingTop right: This is our lovely local beach, just five minutes away from our home, and my very grown-up children, visiting from London, on a beautiful blustery day.  Stephen and I walk here several times a week, and watch the tides and waves and sands move, the holiday visitors with their families come and go.  To share this with my own family is the greatest of all pleasures.j-h-on-spittal-beachMiddle right: A golden GiveWrap, made with the Japanese and Indian silk scraps I was given for my birthday, and mixed up with some very treasured pieces of old clothing.  It’s been another year of GiveWrap making, sharing the ideas with my cousin Polly, and spreading the word about sustainable wraps.golden-givewrapBottom right: I wrote about the poppies that we grow here in a recent blogpost. They are the best of our gardening in this wonderful place, right up on the north Northumbrian border, exposed to all the elements.  Lots of plants won’t grow here – it’s too salty, too windy, too cold.  But poppies flourish, and best of all, they self-seed.  They grow where they will, not just where I choose.  Don’t they adorn the view so very well …poppies in laneBottom middle: In the turmoil of family events earlier this year, two little cats, Eggy and Ilsa, found themselves needing a new home – so they came to Seaview!  And look how these little smilers love it here! These little London softies have become Northumbrian toughies.  They’re good at mousing, chasing the neighbours’ cats, exploring their territory, and finding the comfiest places in the house to sleep (usually some special fabrics I have carefully laid out).eggy-and-ilsaBottom left: Nothing says Seaview to me as much as the big skies with their endlessly-changing weather stories.  Through the winter months, we are privileged to watch the sunrise as it moves over the south-eastern horizon. So often it is explosively dramatic and exciting. Perhaps best of all, the sun doesn’t rise until a decent time (8.38 as I write on 31st December), so I don’t sleep through it … You never tire of these skies.seaview-sunriseMiddle right: On the 23rd June 2016, Great Britain voted in a referendum on their European Union membership – and we all now know the result.  In the days leading up to this referendum, those of us who hoped to stay in the European Union became increasingly worried about the result – as indeed there was good cause – and I was inspired to stitch my Love letter to Europe, incorporating some lines from John Donne’s poem No man is an island.  Embroidery isn’t really my thing, so this was a textile experiment for me. It wasn’t, of course, an earth-shaking contribution – really rather feeble – but it was very comforting to stitch at the time.  Now it hangs up our stairs, and it speaks to me of our continuing membership of Europe, even if we lose the membership of the European Union.love-letter-to-europeCentre: We saw this little 18th century ladies patch box on display at Traquair House – a very happy daytrip to a most interesting place to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. So there are lots of things bound up in this picture for me: my very happy marriage to Stephen, the pleasures we have out and about exploring this beautiful part of the world, and above all else it speaks of hope.  More than anything else in these unsettled times, the message of this little box comes back to me, and I find in it great, great comfort.  At some time in its history, it must have given hope to another person.  Now again, it is holding a hand out to a dodgy future.patch-box-from-traquairGoodness knows what I will be writing at the end of 2017.  But hope isn’t a bad travelling companion.  So thank you for your company on the journey through 2016, and may you all be sustained by hope in whatever comes your way through the next year.  Happy New Year!

All change

I’ve been both a town and a country mouse. One thing that stands out for me as I revert to country mouse status is how oblivious I’ve been to natural change when living in towns and cities.

It’s been partly due to my occupations in these places, of course, that I have noticed things so differently.  When rushing to work in town or city, you may indeed notice the seasons change, but the micro changes so often pass you by.

Everything at Seaview conspires to remind us that the old Greek adage from Heraclitus πάντα ῥεῖ (everything flows) is true. Life here is constant flux.

The sun and the moon show this as well as anything.  These photographs of a wintry sunrise on the solstice last year (December 21st) were all taken in the matter of minutes as the sun rose to the west of  Bamburgh Castle. First a tiny hint that something was coming …sunrise-1-on-the-solstice-21-12-15Then a bit more …sunrise-2-on-the-solstice-21-12-15And as the sun continues to rise, it appears to swivel to the right …sunrise-3-on-the-solstice-21-12-15Now you can see clearly the orb approaching …sunrise-4-on-the-solstice-21-12-15Likewise the moon, here captured on the night of the Supermoon last month, (14th November) …supermoon-14-11-2016Through the early evening, the moon moved rapidly across the sky, in and out of the clouds.  But there were other changes afoot too – man-made changes.  In the blink of an eye, a train slipped across our line of sight, travelling down the mainline East Coast railway line …supermoon-14-11-2016-with-trainCloud banks constantlychange, sweeping across the huge Northumbrian skies in a fascinating variety of patterns …cloud-formationsRainbows shimmer for a moment (here over Holy Island) – and then pass on …rainbow-on-holy-islandSometimes the moment appears to linger. This foggy sunrise last winter seemed trapped in a cold still world …washing-line-in-the-misty-sunBut the lingering is always an illusion, usually fostered by the light on cold days, as captured in this picture of Berwick, golden in the setting sun …winter-sun-on-berwickYou’ve got to be quick to catch the birds sweeping through our skylines too.  Starlings over the neighbouring houses …cloud-of-starlings-copyCrowds of seagulls following the plough …seagulls-following-the-ploughOr this solitary bird caught in a recent sunrise …bird-at-dawnUnremarkable hungry black birds, looking extraordinary in black and white …wintry-birdsAnd our very favourites, the little sanderlings (who only visit this area in the winter), running in and out of the waterline on the Tweed …sanderlings-on-the-shoreJust occasionally we manage to capture the boats coming into the Tweed – not often.  Entry is difficult, limited by the tides, and so dodgy (because the channel is very narrow) that only the local pilots are allowed to navigate these boats to the Tweed Dock. Magical to see them rushing past Berwick’s old lighthouse …marinda-entering-the-tweedTides – ah, yes, tides. Nothing, of course, demonstrates the inevitability and variety of natural change like the tides.

“Twice daily the tides are here, sometimes 
breenging shoreward like an army
of small, mad, angry locals,
at others, creeping in on tourist feet.
They are their own beginnings & endings …”

from At Douglas Hall by Stuart  A Patterson (a Borders poet) 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to record these changes by photographing the Tweed Estuary from our lane throughout the day.  In all these pictures, you should be able to make out the wide panorama, stretching from Berwick’s old lighthouse on the far right to Berwick’s Royal Border Bridge on the left of the picture. These pictures start at 9.21 am with very low tide, and the sands of Spittal Point stretching out almost down to the lighthouse …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-9-21-amAn hour later (10.22 am), the sun has come out, there’s a van coming down the lane, and the sands of Spittal Point are succumbing to the incoming tide …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-10-22-amBy 11.26 am, the sky is really blue, there are some gorgeous light clouds mirroring the line of the pier, and only a few islands of sand are still uncovered by the tide …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-11-26-am12.20, and the sky is far less exciting, the sun has gone in, there are still a few very small islands of sand in the Tweed – and there’s a train running up the East Coast mainline, Berwick bound, I think …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-12-20-am13.17, and rather a dull picture of high tide and no sun …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-13-17-pmAn hour later (14.20 pm), and shafts of low wintry sun are running over the picture from the left (the west) as another train is captured on the Eastcoast railway line.  It is very high tide …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-14-20-pmBy 15.17 pm the light is beginning to go, but an odd flash of blue sky is revealed in the dying light.  The tide is on the turn …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-15-17-pmAnd the last picture of daylight, taken at 16.15 pm, the sky and sea are delicately rose-pink from the rays of the setting sun in the west.  The tide is still only a very little way out …view-to-berwick-from-our-lane-16-15-pmHow uplifting – in a year when the world has seen such radical and disturbing global changes – are these ephemeral sudden shafts of light …

 

Lane problems and a tale of the Derwentwaters

We’ve had heavy heavy rain in the UK over the winter – particularly bad in the west of the country with serious floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire. In the North-East we have had nothing to compare with those troubles, thank goodness.  But it has caused particular problems with the rough farm track we drive along to get to our house.deep runnels

The farm track has always been a bit dodgy.  But this winter’s lane problems were new. Heavy, heavy rain meant the surrounding fields were waterlogged, with old duck ponds and boundary brooks reappearing.  Finally, yet more rain over Christmas meant the land could take no more and water poured off the fields down the only path it could find: our lane.water coming off field

Deep runnels, pits and channels appeared.  The rain continued.  The runnels got deeper, the lane more pitted and craggy.deep pits and channels

Driving became precarious.  Those of our neighbours who had 4-wheel drive came home with confidence.  Those with sports cars and low-slung suspension travelled much more cautiously.  Our little Suzuki Alto did not like it at all.  When temperatures dropped and the water froze, we decided it was far too tricky to drive home, and took to leaving our car in the car park near the sea, at the bottom of the hill.  Hard work carrying shopping up from there!water freezing in runnels

We hit crisis point, and some neighbours decided action must be taken. But it is very complicated because we do not know who owns parts of this lane.  Such land ownership problems are not unusual, but ours have a particular history behind them – which is romantic and tragic.

The surrounding farms belong to the Greenwich Hospital Estate – and they used to own our cottage (in the old farm steading) and most of the old cottages about.  Yes, we live in the most northern part of Northumberland, just a few miles south of the Scots-English border, and yes, Greenwich Hospital is in East London (some 400 miles away).  (You can read more about the Greenwich Hospital and its responsibilities and functions in its 2012-13 annual report here)

Before Greenwich Hospital owned these lands they belonged to the Earls of Derwentwater. Their family home was at Dilston, near Corbridge, in the south of Northumberland.  But the Derwentwaters owned large parts of North Northumberland.  They were said to be the wealthiest and most powerful Jacobite family in the north of England.

Tragedy struck for the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, who (a devout Catholic and Jacobite) was one of the leaders of the 1715 Jacobite uprising.  The British had deposed their Roman Catholic King  with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and replaced him with his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William.  But many longed for the return of Roman Catholic Jacobite rule, among them the Earl of Derwentwater.

The rebels were defeated at the battle of Preston, and Derwentwater and the other rebels were captured and taken to London where they were lodged in the Tower of London.  Despite the reprieve of some of the other leaders, the King was determined to make an example with the Lords Derwentwater and Kenmure, and they were beheaded on Tower Hill on 24th February 1716.   (Below detail of print showing the execution.)IMG_0120

This story of Derwentwater’s fall is told in Devil Water by Anya Seton. She’s a rather forgotten historical novelist these days, but I read – and loved! – all her books when I was young.  I re-read Devil Water when we came to live here and there is no doubt her historical research was excellent.  Her writing about this area of Northumberland is accurate and evocative.Anya Seton Devil Water

With his execution, Derwentwater was stripped of his honours and titles, and his estates confiscated. In 1748 the Derwentwater Estates were granted by Act of Parliament to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.

The Derwentwaters are almost forgotten here, though the odd (mis-spelt!) street sign about still remembers them.Derwentwater road sign

But Greenwich Hospital is still very much part of the area.  They continue to manage a Northumberland Estate of 8,000 acres – and that includes the farm fields around us. Their name is also common in the locality.North Greenwich road

So how does this tally with our lane problems?! Well, the old farms here were very small – completely impractical for modern farmers – so as farming families came to the end of their leases and moved on, the fields were given to other farms and the houses and buildings sold on.  Life has changed so much – in sales of the last century, people didn’t always have their own cars to drive to their home, there were vegetable-growing allotments where modern owners might want enclosed private gardens, and old pathways with habitual rights of way were thought sufficient for new owners.

We know half the lane is co-owned by the four steading cottages at its end.  It is the other half – the bad part! – whose ownership is unknown. The cottages alongside have sometimes done some repairs – and Northumberland County Council has even visited recently and made vague encouraging noises.

But we can’t wait for the Council’s deliberations – the track was almost impassable! Initially, a small group of neighbours gathered with a digger and a massive delivery of tarry road chippings, which were helpfully deposited in large piles along the troubled parts of the lane.dumper truck and hard coreThe idea was to run a pipe across the lane and under the new chippings, channeling the water further down the hill, out of harm’s way.water pipe and hardcoreThere was just the simple task of spreading the hardcore.digger and spreading hardcoreI never saw myself working as a navvy …spreading hardcoreUnfortunately – another night’s heavy rain, and all our good work was washed away.deep runnels againThe water completely overwhelmed our nice little pipe arrangement.  So much for amateur engineeringmore rain, more damageOn a recent weekend, an another impromptu neighbourly working party was assembled, pick axes were mounted on unpractised shoulders …pickaxingtrenches were dug …shovelling – and water was diverted with a new larger pipe! Yeay!new pipeMore gravel was spread over the damaged lane …more gravel burying pipeWe haven’t had any serious rain yet to put the working party efforts to the test, but for the moment the lane is passable. At least we can drive home!

But before I finish this post, I want to return to the story of the Derwentwaters.  It was only when I started writing, and checked my facts that I realised the relevance of the date on which James Radclyffe, the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater was executed: 24th February 1716 – by some strange coincidence that’s 400 years ago this week.  So, it seems appropriate to mark this anniversary.

What I hadn’t realised was that Derwentwater was only 25 when he found himself the leader of the uprising in 1715 – 26 when he was executed the next year.  So very young.  According to some accounts he was a very decent man.  His contemporary, the Scottish writer, Tobias Smollett, called him “brave, open, generous, hospitable and human.”  The Reverend Mr Patten’s description was even more glowing: ” [Derwentwater was] formed by nature to be universally loved for his benevolence was so unbounded that he seemed only to live for others.” (Patten was another contemporary, and the chaplain to the other uprising leader, Thomas Forster).

Fine comments indeed.  Some dismiss them saying this was only propaganda by reactionary writers, and actually he was a person of little importance and weak character.

What I can definitively say is that he was brave indeed at his execution.  I’m going to quote here some of the very moving description of that event from Christopher Sinclair Stevenson’s book, Inglorious Rebellion:

“At ten o’clock […] he drove in a coach to Tower Hill and then walked through the ranks of
soldiers to the scaffold draped in black.  his face was ashen as he mounted the steps to the block, but he retained his calm composure.  A few prayers were followed by his speech.  It was an extraordinarily moving address in which he retracted his plea of guilty made at his trial, spoke with great warmth and feeling of James III, and assured his audience that the country could have no lasting peace or happiness until the restoration of the Stuarts.  His last words were devoid of bitterness: ‘I die a Roman Catholic; I am in perfect charity with all the world, I thank God for it, even with those of the present Government, who are most instrumental in my death.  I freely forgive such as ungenerously reported false things of me; and I hope to be forgiven the trespasses of my youth, by  the Father of infinite mercy, into his hand I commend my soul.”

His body was taken to Dilston, where he was buried in the family vault.

There’s a nice little accompanying story to his end.  Apparently, the Northern Lights were particularly brilliant at the time of his beheading, and in some places they became known as the Earl of Derwentwater’s Lights.  As it happens, there have been some fine showings of the Northern Lights in recent days (though we haven’t actually seen them here) – who knows?  Perhaps there will be a magnificent replay of the Earl of Derwentwater’s fabulous lights to mark the 400th anniversary of his death …

Whatever, James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater,  RIP.James_Radclyffe,_3rd_Earl_of_Derwentwater_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_20946Picture of James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater reproduced from Wikipedia (public domain)

Compost

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up …”

The writer of Ecclesiastes put it so well.  (Though you may have Pete Seeger’s version, memorably sung by the Byrds in your ears)  For us, in the dark northern hemisphere, it is the breaking down time of the year.  The time of decay, death, mouldering and rotting   – and so we come to compost.

On of our first chores when we came to Seaview was to build a compost heap.  Stephen had dismantled the ridiculously high fencing so that we could finally see the sea from our house, and we had plenty of spare treated planks of wood.So he built two compost heaps – one beside the other.  A work of genius!  As we fill one heap up with fresh victuals, the other heap gently matures.  Two states of compostOver the year, all sorts of goodies go into our compost heap.  It could in many ways be said to be a labour of love.

The core goodness is, of course, the green waste from the kitchen.  We eat a great deal of fruit and vegetables, and all their parings go in.  Eggs and anything meaty don’t – that would encourage rats.

All our garden waste goes into the compost heap – bar the very woody material, which wouldn’t disintegrate quickly enough.  Grass cuttings are an important element.

To this we add treasures lovingly collected on our walks in the neighbourhood.  Cowpats from the friendly local cows.Horse manure – when we can get it!  This was nicely bagged up by some wonderful folk on Holy Island – free for the taking!  How very generous.Horse shit from Holy IslandSeaweed from the beach.  We never pick or cut seaweed – but then we don’t have to.  If you wait for the right time, there will always be storms to sweep it up onto the beach.Seaweed for collection at the beachSeaweed is a really important addition to the compost heap because of the minerals and sea goodness it adds to the pile.Seaweed on the compost heapSometimes the sea gives other treasures for our compost heap.  One winter, after terrible storms, huge piles of beech leaves came down the Tweed.  So large were these piles on the beach that they dwarfed Stephen.Huge piles of beech leaves washed down the TweedWe weren’t alone to appreciate these beech gifts – lots of little bugs and insects to feed hungry birds too.Beech leaves washed down the TweedAs we add all these good things to the “operational” compost heap, the other compost heap – the maturing one – is just so good that plants (like these poppies) start to grow.  This is an indication of the biggest failing with our compost heap: it never gets warm enough to kill the seeds and weedlings.Poppies growing in the compost heapCome winter, come this time of year, we are at the turning point with our compost heaps.  One is very full indeed – Stephen has to jump on it at times to compress all the garden waste that has been piled up after the autumn clearances.This year's compost piled highAnd the other pile is rich, matured – and compressed.Lovely crumbly composted materialIt’s time to spread the goodness round and about.Loading up the wheelbarrow with compostAll sorts of treasures come to light … that’s the blade of the paring knife that went missing last year!  And there are worms – a sign of a healthy heap because, of course, it is they who have been eating our composting greenery and vegetables and excreting them as loam.worm and potato peeler in compostTime to spread goodness around.  Great mulchy piles around shrubs …Compost nestling round the roots of shrubsAnd I do so love my little borders tidily put to bed like this!Compost spread on flower bedsAs we compost and reuse the goodness from garden, house and locality, we are part of a cycle that others follow too.  Last winter the farmer put great piles of cow dung (cleared out from the cattle’s indoor habitation) in the field up the hill from us.  By the end of the year there was a sizeable heap.Pile of manure beside fieldAfter harvest, it was loaded up onto tractors …Tractors collecting manureand spread on the fields …Spreading manure all ove fieldSpreading manure over the fieldCompost heaps have been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I can still vividly remember the grass-cutting smell of my grandmother’s heap in her Oxfordshire garden – probably because the heap sat under a large tree which we children liked to climb and hide in.

And my five-year old son – on his first school trip to the beach at Exmouth – coming back with a puzzled teacher and a determined expression on his face as he lugged home some grubby, sandy carrier bags full of seaweed for my compost heap!

We are not the only ones to love the compost heap here at Seaview – our neighbour’s cat is particularly fond of this spot too.Our neighbour's cat likes the compost heap too

No-one sums it all up better for me than the poet, Edna Eglinton:

“What I am now is made from this rich compost, deep-stirred with fellowship and love, sunshine on green pastures, may-trees in blossom, and the heart singing.”

Our Seaview garden story

I have been much in the garden lately, enjoying some fine warm days.  And I have been reflecting on how our garden has grown with us – and what solace it has given.  But it has been hard work.

As I have written elsewhere, we inherited a garden that had been unloved, and grown wild. Wild Seaview garden when we first arrived The grass was long; some of the fencing had come apart round the oil tank; and in the corner you might just glimpse the sad remains of the plastic shed that had been blown apart in storms.

The first chore was to mow the lawn.  Stephen mowing wild gardenThe garden was well-fenced in.  This was useful while our cat Poe made her preliminary expeditions in her new territory, but meant we couldn’t see the view from the house.Poe exploring garden for first timeSo the next task was to reduce the height of the fence.  Then we could see the sea!  Lowering the fenceAfter that we replaced the shed.  This sounds an easy task, but was complicated by the fact that we were experiencing very strong winds at the time, and there was no way we could hold the large wood panels correctly in place with the wind blowing as it was.  Everyday we checked the Met Office forecasts.   A week later our opportunity came and we got the shed up.Stephen building the shedSitting in those pots on the patio were the plants and seedlings we’d brought from our old Devon home.  We now needed to make some flower beds in our new garden so we could give our much-travelled plants a new home.Seaview with the wild lawn tamedWe started with a large bed in the corner of the garden….. first bed we dugand that’s when we realised how hard it was to dig this ground.  Eventually we acquired a pick-axe.Stephen pickaxing new holeWe learned that digging flower beds here involved removing all the earth, clay and stones and rubble from the proposed spot, sieving it, putting back a little bit of good earth and buying a lot of expensive compost and top soil to refill the hole!Stephen inspecting a newly dug holesThis is why it was such hard work.

One of our neighbours kindly showed us some pictures of the old farm steading when it was being converted into homes.  This is our kitchen.  That pile of rubble behind the kitchen is our garden.  We further learned that our garden was where the tractor was usually parked.  To keep the mud under control, the farmer regularly tipped hardcore and rubble on this spot.  Aaaaagh!Seaview farm kitchen being built

Despite the hard work, we did finish the little beds beside the fence in time for our little seedlings to be transplanted there in the early spring.view out of garden to seaIt felt such a triumph to sit out in early summer as we came to the end of our first year here.Stephen sitting in the gardenThese little beds under the fence were still very empty, so we bought poppy and cornflower seeds.  This was the result in high summer – just amazing.first year crop of poppies We added a conservatory.  new conservatoryThis has been a huge bonus for us in windy, colder Northumberland, meaning we can shelter ourselves and our more delicate plants.morning glories around conservatory doorStephen put a lot of care into making raised beds to grow our vegetables inStephen building the raised bedsIn a few years we had transformed the garden with the addition of water butts and three raised beds.  new raised bedsAnd, of course, a greenhouse.Stephen putting up the greenhouseThis is the last garden bed Stephen dug.  Judging by his expression, I think it is the last he is ever planning to dig.Stephen beside new garden holeSuddenly it looked like a proper garden!plants growing well in raised bedsAnd we got produce from the raised beds.  Our first year carrots were a little curious.weird carrotsBut last year we had these beautiful courgettes …yellow courgettes from the gardenand tomatoes …tomatos from the gardenand chilli peppers too.chillis from the gardenI cannot believe that we now have what looks like a proper garden!  There is still often work to do.Katherine weeding the garden pathThe garden is now showing us that it has a mind of its own. How silly of me to think it is our garden.  Of course, it isn’t!  It belongs to the place itself …

Self-sown poppy seedlings are growing round and through our bench …Poppies growing through benchand in our raised veg beds …Poppies looking gloriousand in the lane …Wild poppy seedlings in laneNever mind, Poe can still do the fence walk …Poe doing fence walkand she can still find the bird water when she’s thirsty.Poe drinking from the birds' waterAs for Stephen and me, – well, we’re happy so long as we can still see the view.Poppies in the gloamingWhat we have tried to do, is build a garden where the plants we grow merge into the natural grasses of the fields around us. Garden merging into field

The essayist, Francis Bacon, was surely right when he wrote that “…[a garden] is the purest of human pleasures.  It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handyworks.”Poppies in the new garden bedHow lucky we are to have a garden for solace, beauty, abundance – and hopefully a lot less hard work!