Friday, 18 April 2008

Spring Flowers

At last! Some colour in the garden. The daffs are still not fully out - most still tightly in bud. Everyone agrees the season is a couple of weeks later than it's been for a few years. But it is coming - even though there was frost on the ground this morning, it is definitely Spring. The light levels are fantastic, and the days are already stretching way out past eight o'clock in the evening.

And some brave garden flowers are in full bloom. In my garden, that means the primulas and the flowering currant.

Oo! Seeing those photographs has me feeling all poetic. I must look out a poem or two on the wonders of Spring. Stay tuned for the next post...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Not Looking for the Loch Ness Monster

Fed up with the prospect of another Sunday at home alone, I thought I'd take a trundle out to a plant nursery that, considering how close it is, I don't visit often enough. Abriachan Nursery is enviably located on a steep south-facing hillside overlooking the world-famous Loch Ness.

Over the last 25 years, the Davidson family have carved out a tranquil yet exciting garden from native hillside and on a sunny day, looking out over the loch, you couldn't wish for a better way to spend an hour.

It was a mixture of sun and showers, so I spent a soothing half hour only, wandering the many paths of the garden, trying to pick up hints for dealing with my own unsculptured hillside and enjoying the fabulous views.

I treated myself to some primula (Abriachan specialises in alpines)and headed back home feeling refreshed.

Of course, you don't just come to Loch Ness to buy plants. Most people are looking for the Loch Ness Monster, the fabled inhabitant of Scotland's biggest loch by volume. It is very deep - 230 metres at its deepest part - and that is, I think, why people believe that relatively big creatures could live here and yet be seen so rarely (if at all.) If you want to search for him/her/both, you can now do it online, courtesy of this live-streaming webcam. Have fun!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Spring has Sprung!

At last, and a couple of weeks later than last year, I think we can say that Spring has arrived here on the hill. The daffodils are still well short of their peak - most are still in tight bud, but they are going to look gorgeous in a week or two.

The first of the wild flowers have emerged - only just, and I had to look hard to find them, but definite evidence that nature hasn't forgotten how to do it. To celebrate, I have loads of photos to share:

The first plant in flower was some coltsfoot in the ditch outside the house - just one clump, but a wonderful, defiant sunshine yellow.
Next was one of the classic Spring woodland flowers, Anemone nemorosa - again just one clump, but I know that in a few days the ground will be carpeted with them.

The trees here (and the fenceposts and anything that stands still long enough) are covered with lichen. I'm no expert but there are at least three varieties , probably many more. I liked this small branch on a flowering cherry, with a leaf bud just beginning to unwrap, barely noticeable in the forest of lichen.

And here's another branch - on an apple tree this time. I love the contrast between the close-hugging orange lichen and the seaweed-like branching grey one.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

April on a Croft in the Fifties

I haven't had anything to say about my bit of hillside since my last extract from Wendy Wood's book - it's been cold, wet and miserable and I have not been at all inspired - but, nevertheless, it is time for an April look at croft life fifty years ago. And what a wonderful passage this is:
"In a town many a person stops to watch a man at work digging up a pavement or a road; and here at home I find myself ready to 'stand and stare' at the first ploughing of the year without sense of time. It is not only because it is so fundamental, but also because there is so much movement to it. All winter the still, flat field has been without much interest, for only an occasional crow or a few sheep have crossed its dull surface, but when the plough scrapes in at the gate, the field wakens to know that is it springtime.
There is a great deal of preparation and adjustment before the shout of the ploughman starts the great rhythm of moving earth. The horses tuck their heads in and sinews ripple under their glossy coats, the great hooves plod to a hidden tune, the traces strain, and behind them the coutler cuts the green turf like the prow of a ship, while the following share lays aside the regulated waves of shining furrow, a slow, inevitable march of rising, turning slabs. Behind them the ploughman paces, exact in his skill, his body bent intently, the muscles strongly modelled on his bare arms. At his back, high and low in the air, are the swirl and dip of the white-winged gulls and the hoodie crows crying their joy at the treasure that has lain too long in the winter-locked larder. A lark rises, pouring the silver of its treble to fall like narrow ribbons on the dark broad bands below. The dog dashes round the field barking, his eyes glistening with a fever of excitement at the wakening earth. High above, the clouds move majestically across the inverted blue fields of the sky, and between the two an eagle soars remote. The air is warm, and as I lean over the stone dyke my body relaxes from the tenseness with which we have fought the cold winds of winter. There is a faint scent from the newly turned turf, reminiscent of the smell of uncooked plum pudding. Somehow this is not just an ordinary ploughing; it is symbolic, a ceremony, a saga; with delight akin to pain I sense the hidden significance of brown earth. It is small wonder that I sing on the way home."

Wonderful! And as so often in these extracts, a glimpse of a world not that long ago but completely unfamiliar to us now. Oh, how I'd love to see horses ploughing the fields round my house.

Two of her remarks strike a familiar chord though. That feeling of a body constantly tensed against the cold is one I've felt myself, and the physical frustration of a late Spring holding back the release of all those tensed muscles is palpable this year. And her description of 'delight akin to pain' also reflected words I've written in my own journals. Here on the hill, sometimes when I look out across the firth, and the air is full of birdsong, and the Sun is warming my back, I have declared the scene to be so beautiful that it's almost painful. Her remark is so similar to mine that I think there must be some deep genetic memory at work. A glorious Spring to you all!