"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Still No Moths, Millennium Wood and another Theatre Outing

I put out the moth trap last night for GMS Week 4. Minimum temperature recorded was minus 0.7 degrees centigrade so I wasn't surprised to find an empty trap again this morning!

I haven't been to Millennium Wood for ages so as I was in the area this morning and had half an hour to spare I made a brief visit. It was freezing cold with a bitingly cold wind.

This small nature reserve covers 10 acres and was planted with over 9000 trees and shrubs in 2000.

Most of the time (like today) I see very few birds just the commoner species such as Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Blackbird, Robin and Blue Tits but occasionally visits pay dividends and I've seen large flocks of Lesser Redpoll, Long-Tailed Tits, plus Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and Bullfinches

The most productive part of the reserve, bird-wise, tends to be the area along the entrance road - there's a horse paddock on the opposite side of the road to the reserve and the hedgerows contains lots of holly bushes and mature oak trees. On the reserve side there is a layer of shrubs and bramble under the silver birches.

Last night David and I went to the Old Repertory Theatre for an event by The Rep called "Hidden Histories" which has been created by The Foundry - an artists' development programme for theatre makers, writers and directors. The evening consisted of a tour of the theatre with various events explaining the history of the Birmingham Rep which is 100 years old this year. The Rep spent the early part of its life at the Old Rep Theatre before moving to a new Theatre in Broad Street. In each of the locations we visited such as the Stage, Dressing Rooms and an Exhibition, 7 different short plays were enacted each covering an incident in the history of the Rep. It was a fascinating evening and we got chance to take part as the crowd in a scene from First Night/Twelfth Night(The Rep's first ever play). It was interesting to stand on stage and see the auditorium from the actor's viewpoint. The exhibition was very interesting with various props, programmes, costumes, miniature stage sets and information about the Rep's performances over the last 100 years. The last play of the evening was by David's friend who attends the Foundry as a Screenwriter.

Back at home the cold, snowy weather has brought in a few species that rarely visit the garden these days - Mistle and Song Thrushes though no Fieldfare this time. The Goldcrest is seen on the feeders every day and 3 wrens are still roosting in the hanging basket.

Primroses and Cowslip flowers and buds are covered in snow. I was hoping this week to return to St Giles - the churchyard I discovered last year which has masses of primroses. There doesn't seem to be much point at the moment if they are going to be as snow covered as ours.!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Still No Moths (and a Trip to the Theatre)

I put out the moth trap on Monday evening. But with a minimum overnight temperature of 0.5 degrees centigrade, I wasn't at all surprised to find no moths in the trap next morning. I still haven't seen a moth yet this year!

To be honest if I wasn't participating in the Garden Moth Scheme, I wouldn't bother trapping at the moment whilst temperatures are so low. However, you can only miss so many weeks and as far as GMS is concerned a report of no moths trapped is still an important record.

The weather doesn't look promising this weekend either with snow forecast and minimum overnight temperatures down to -3!!


I went with David to see a play on Tuesday evening - a Birmingham Rep production called Heather Gardner. It's an adaptation by Robin French of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. It was excellent and I really enjoyed the evening. Birmingham Rep stage some superb plays - I've loved every one I've seen there. We saw an Ibsen play "The Lady from the Sea" there a few years ago and it was another play that made a really deep impression on me.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Wildflower Watercolour Paintings

I've been having another decluttering session at home and came across these original wildflower watercolour paintings that I've never got round to framing. I bought them some years ago at a local Antique Fair and they are dated between 1928 and 1940. I fell in love with them because they reminded me so much of the delightful illustrations in the Edith Holden books - "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and "Nature Notes".

The paintings are not signed so I have no idea who the artist was or whether they were male or female. In fact, I am not 100% sure if they are all by the same person. The Antiques Fair closed down some years ago so unfortunately I can't even return and ask the seller for more information.

I particularly like the way the artist has added, in some cases, smaller illustrations of flowers, seeds or seed cases.

I have labelled the photos of the paintings below with the flower name used by the artist.

Veronica (dated 1933)

Lesser Spearwort (dated 1928)

Ranunculus (dated 1934)

Tufted Vetch (dated 1940)

Sainfoin (dated 1940)

I still hope to post some more "Following in the Footsteps of an Edwardian Lady" visits later in the year. I have been undertaking some research at Solihull Library trying to track down Edith's "Violet Wood". The only information I could find in the books was that it was near the canal and consisted mainly of conifers. Solihull Library has some superb large scale maps of the Olton area dating back to the time when she wrote her diary. Combining information gained from these maps with current OS Maps, Google Maps and driving round the area, I have come to the conclusion that the violet wood may possibly have been Billsmore Wood which unfortunately for me is located on the Land Rover site and so I wouldn't be able to access it. The only other possibilities are small pockets of woodland along the canal but these today (and in Edith's time) are mainly deciduous.

The book in the photo below - "The Frampton Flora" by Richard Mabey is another of my favourites. The book contains Victorian Paintings by 4 sisters - Elizabeth, Charlotte, Catherine and Mary-Anne Clifford and their aunts of flowers in the Frampton area of Gloucestershire where they lived; together with Richard Mabey's account of these flowers, paintings and painters. I am not sure if the book is still in print but Amazon has Used copies for sale.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

NORFOLK - Part 3

I've condensed the last two days of the holiday into one blog posting as to be quite honest the weather was that awful that we didn't exactly do a lot! In fact, during the four days away I took less photos than I normally take on a day out!

Saturday was absolutely freezing with a bitingly cold wind and heavy rain followed by heavy sleet. We visited a Craft Fair/Farmer's Market/Book Fayre in Blakeney in the morning which was very impressive. There were lots of food "goodies" and I spent a fortune on some delicious handmade cheeses from Lymn Bank Farm. The craft stalls were excellent with items ranging from paintings and prints, bird sculptures made from driftwood, handmade soaps, corn dollies to love spoons. The Book Fayre had its own hall and had a very good selection of second hand books. Books on Natural History included some rather nice Collins New Naturalist, Wayside and Woodland, Observer series and some signed Richard Mabey books. If I could have found a Mabey book I hadn't already got I would have tried to buy one of these when the family were looking the other way :)

In the afternoon Brian and I went to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve at Cley. There's a huge viewing window that overlooks the marshes so we spent half an hour looking at the birds from there. We did drive along the road to the side of the Reserve to the Beach. But believe me the wind was that strong and cold that I just managed to climb up the shingle bank and look at the waves crashing on the shore before making a run back to the car. Sorry no photos I didn't even bother taking the camera out with me.

In the evening we went for a meal and it was a bit like a scene from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" - some of the family are really rather fussy :) The first pub was too packed, the second too expensive, the 3rd too small and cramped. Finally we found a pub in Stiffkey called the Red Lion which seemed "just right" !The food was very good and I've made a mental note that they also offer accommodation as I am not sure I could persuade David and Emily to return and if Brian and I went for a weekend it could be the ideal place to stay. Brian was rather impressed with the huge choice of mussel dishes (yuk!) they offered when mussels are in season.

On Sunday the weather was, if possible, even colder with an even stronger cold wind accompanied by snow flurries.

Here's a photo of the house we stayed in at Blakeney (taken on the day we arrived)

It was lovely to see violets and daffodils in bloom as neither are flowering yet in our garden.

We stopped off at Blakeney Quay for a few minutes so I could try and take some photos. The light was dreadful and I was in and out of the car very quickly so not the best of pictures which is a shame as the place is so photogenic. The highlight for me was the sight of a couple of Turnstones.

Every village has a different sign. I would have liked to have taken photos of many more of these.

We stopped off briefly at Wells-next-the-Sea and then I persuaded Brian to drive up Lady Ann;s Drive to Holkham Gap as I had read so much about these places over the years. Again a very brief walk before dashing back to the car. A real shame about the weather as we could have had a lovely woodland and beach walk with the added bonus that I might have seen some birds!

We had all gone prepared for some cold weather but hadn't really taken the sort of clothes needed for "Arctic" type conditions!

Have to say that, despite, the weather, I really did like Norfolk and just hope we can visit again one day.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

NORFOLK Part 2 - Holt and Weybourne Church and Priory

On Friday we had planned to visit the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve at Cley in the morning and then go on a boat trip to Blakeney Point in the hope of seeing seals in the afternoon but we abandoned these plans when we woke up to an enveloping mist - well really fog!. Although, had I known that even worse weather was on the way for Saturday and Sunday, I would have persuaded everyone to go to Cley - fog or no fog!!!

We drove down the coast to Cromer - again the strange experience of all the villages looking familiar even though I'd never been before :) If possible it was even foggier in Cromer so hoping it was just a sea mist we drove inland to Holt - a market town with lots of interesting little independent shops. Sadly, it was just as misty there!

Emily particularly enjoyed this shop!

and David and I spent most of our time in this one. David was happy having found a book on Gothic Norfolk (full of myths and legends). I picked up a pair of books in a case full of engravings by Thomas Bewick but replaced it rather rapidly when I was told the asking price - £100!

On the journey we had passed many interesting looking churches - all seemed open. I finally managed to persuade Brian to return to Weybourne so David and I could have a look at the church and priory there.

You can see from this photo of the church (and later ones of the Priory) just how misty it was.

I found one clump of primroses in the churchyard and snowdrops were still flowering.

Weybourne Priory was founded around 1200 - 1216 (the Augustinian Order was introduced into England during the 11th century and many religious houses were founded in the following 100 years).

The mist swirling round the ruins was really rather atmospheric and my imagination ran riot with thoughts of monks in hooded cowls wandering around.

The parish church of All Saints has chancel and nave dating mainly to the 13th and 14th centuries. The porch (which has flushwork - flint and brick - decoration) was completed around 1500.

The pulpit is Jacobean

Sorry about the flash bouncing off the glass - the frame contains a photo of the Seal of Weybourne Priory of early 13th century design.

Carving on the pulpit - sorry about this being in the wrong place. Blogger has a mind of its own this evening and seems to be putting photos out of order! Plus I've had several attempts at typing text which appears in a different place when I check the preview!! So apologies in advance if this post is all over the place and the text and photos fail to make sense!!

I only scan read the guide book whilst in the church (conscious of Brian and Emily waiting in the car!!) and it was only later that I realised I had missed one of the highlights - two 15th century poppy-heads (these are small circular wooden face engravings) - doh!!

Spotted a huge flock of Greenfinches in the garden back at the cottage and Jackdaws were constantly "chacking" from the roof top. Great to hear the Tawny Owl again during the evening too.