As the rain blasts against the window and the sheep huddle under the horse chestnut, I thought I’d take us back to the sunshine and optimism of last Monday.
It was one of those rare but sublime days of crystalline light where everything shined with the reflective intensity of a newly scrubbed diamond. It was, quite simply, dazzling. Most of all, it was physically impossible to stay inside. The outside called from the moment I drew open the curtains in the morning.
So after the most cursory attempt at household chores, I was out there, camera in hand, to record the beauty of the hour, and the passage of early Spring into late Spring. Here is what I saw:
Forget-me-nots are a favourite of mine, for their colour, their simplicity and their tenacity.
The acid of euphorbia, the purple and white tulips, the sculptural bud of the allium, and the large leaves of comfrey are set against a mossy dry stone wall.
The view down to the reservoir.
The contrast of shiny dark purple tulips and white sweet scented narcissi in a tub.
Late planted daffodils struggling to keep their pretty heads above the fast-growing loostrife.
'Dingly dell' through which a small stream meanders with run-off water from the hills behind us. It is here that snowdrops flourish in late winter and now the bluebells are just beginning to take over (as the lesser celandine subsides).
This small bright red rhododendron looks a little lost right now, but it was planted to help replace some of the mature ones which we lost (over-zealous chain-saw wielding bloke!) when the dell was cleared (necessary maintenance) in the autumn.
This is the top of Dingly Dell where the stream enters the garden over a stone waterfall. We had the scrubby wild rhododendrons and other undergrowth cleared from around it last autumn and now, during winter, after heavy rains, we can see the torrent from our dining room window.
This is the 'Witch's Face' - can you see it in the stones at the base of the tree trunk? Two slitty eyes, a nose and a crooked mouth. Currently a little cluttered, I'm afraid, by a wood pile which doesn't normally live there and a rather unsightly old petrol can (all part of the autumn cutting and clearing and burning process). This is actually the site of an old fountain. I would love to get it up and running again one day.
This is the very top of the garden which we keep wild, apart from cutting a path through the tall grass. This is also where we have a small vegetable patch, a greenhouse, raspberry canes, blackcurrant bushes, gooseberry bushes and some apple trees. I love it up here.
This is looking back at the main lawn with the cherry blossom and the copper beach looking fresh and splendid at this time of year.
A large tub of tulips adds colour to the terrace and an early-flowering clematis is decorating the wall above.
I suddenly heard a load of bleating and caffuffle, and rushed round to the front of the house, overlooking the lane, just in time to catch sheep rush hour.
You can just see the green bench where I love to have coffee and look at the view. We call it 'Billy's Bench' in memory of N's late father who loved sitting on it on our terrace in Milan, smoking his pipe and contemplating life. I trust he still sits here sometimes now when we are not looking. He was born in Greater Manchester and though he had to move down south after the death of his mother when he was just seven years old, he remained misty eyed about his north-west roots. It is a tragedy that he never lived to know that this is where his eldest son has ended up...
And this is the view that we breathe in.
Having toured the garden, I decided it was time to make a cup of tea, sit on the bench and gird my loins for a phonecall I knew I would find difficult. It started ok, but by the end I was taken over by some hidden and supposedly long buried emotions – the conversation had sparked a load of happy yet painful feelings coming back to me, as I feared it would, and I found myself with tears flowing despite the beauty all around me. To subdue the memories of far away sea shores, oysters, friendship, and simple but complicated love I knew I had to go for a walk – to connect fully with where I am now, the place in which I currently live on that glorious sunny day last week. It felt good to be alone with my thoughts and my camera – simply appreciating the space, the air, the views and nature around me. There is no better tonic than a spring lamb in a green field by a stream on a sunny day in May.
Wherever you may be, if you are having a 'grey day', I hope this may have lifted your spirits a little too.