Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hedgerows and harvest

Tomorrow brings the first day of September. 
For the past week or so we have been noticing that the mornings are growing chillier, there is dampness in the air, and the wind gathers in dark clouds and showers from the southwest. 
Ash Keys, Oak Acorns and Sycamore Wings hang brown in the trees, their surrounding skirts of leaves are dusty and worn. 
In the hedgerows and waysides, hands of elder berries bend the boughs low, and bobbled brambles are swelling black beside ochre spotted leaves. 
I spotted the first autumnal fungi today, protruding through the leaf litter that has lain more or less undisturbed all summer-long, already nibbled by night-time mice and slugs.  
The Jay, the painted crow, flies back and forth across the lane with acorns for his stash, whist Robins, still showing signs of late summer moult, relearn their songs. Spiders patient-wait in their webs of silken thread, strung with beads of gold or silver light. 
The harvest has been fruitful, early, the combines and tractors working overtime to bring the precious crops home to the barns. 
When the wind blows from across the fields, Thistledowns keep drifting in the kitchen door, perhaps they are in fact fairies, drawn in as I am by the smell of stewed apples?


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Garden of Delight

Above, the roar of yet another passenger plane across the cloud-broken sky, but even as it passes directly overhead, it doesn't quite manage to drown out the hesitant high notes of the robin, hidden in the overhanging branches of the trees, or the gentle preoccupied hum of honey bees in the warm-scented lavender.  

In the borders, bright bedding plants bask under summer sunshine.
Dark leaved, hot-bloomed exotics add a generous dose of spice and fire, whilst more familiar petals play with the
pallet; purple heads of verbena jut through sprays of yellow fennel, and bright dahlias float, like painted dragon-boats on a sea of montbretia.

Ahead, down the long broadwalk, beyond the flower beds where short mown grass opened out and rolled away beneath the green shade of trees, is a glimpse of reflected light, of victorian glass rising up from the edge of wind-shivered lake.

Picture on a postcard, flowers in your hair.
Let down your guard, forget the busy world, bare-foot in the grass.
Lie back and let the thundershowers roll, as the slow hours of summer pass. 

 All photos taken at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London, England. 4th-13th August 2014 (Copyright Sophie-May Lewis/SophiEco Wild)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Poem: Swift Departure

I noticed today, the swifts have left the town. Always last to arrive and first to arrive, these migratory visitors epitomise, for me, the fleeting nature of the long awaited summer. Their thrilling screaming cries and diving flight down the narrow alleyways and cobbled streets of my home-town are a highlight of my year, and I miss them when they are gone.

Swift Departure
No scything wings.
The song thrush, the town-crier sings:
They’ve gone! They’ve gone! They’ve gone!
The empty street gazes up at empty sky.
No screaming dives.
Sparrows, the street-urchins, chirp forlorn:
They’ve gone! They’ve gone! They’ve gone!
No angled shadow.
The starlings, the pearly kings, darkly mourn:
They’ve gone! They’ve gone! They’ve gone!
Around the eaves the wind blows hollow.
No longer spring, they’ve stolen summer;
The cloud-cutters, the city-swallow.

They’ve gone.

(Copyright Sophie-May Lewis)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The garden at Five Oaks Cottage

Tucked away in a secret spot, along a hazel-shaded lane in the heart of the South Downs, is an unusual and quirky garden encircling a cottage near Petworth in the South Downs National Park, with breathtaking views across the Sussex countryside 

Today, the garden was soaked in bright July sunshine beneath clear, windless skies. The sounds of traffic and towns were replaced with the hum, buzz and chirrups of insects and birds. Managed organically, as a wildlife garden, the garden has been under the ownership and care of Jean Jackman (Twitter @Selfseeding) since she and her husband Steve brought the house on 1994. 
Since that first year, many hours of hard work have transformed the garden into a beautiful, thriving wildlife haven (quite a feat considering the heavy acidic clay soil). A past life as a plant buyer for a garden centre chain has given Jean the opportunity to amass a collection of unusual plants, many chosen for their architectural qualities, their scent or their intriguing back-stories. 

In fact, every plant in the garden seems to have a story or a reason for being there; the bamboo from a friends recommendation, the tree where the Owl perches on quiet evening, or a  mother's much-loved-favourite. Gravel and brick paths, where wildflowers often choose to self seed, take you on a winding journey through the borders, and lead through the garden to a glorious meadow. 

Tall golden grasses wave in the softest of breezes and yellow Birds-foot-trefoil peers out from the edge of the mown paths. 
Purple Knapweed is currently the star of the show, attracting a throng of insects. Bees hum from flower to flower, Hoverflies dance at the edge of your sight, and Butterflies flit on dainty wings; the Small White and the Common Blue, the Meadow Brown and the Small Skipper, and like a flying pocket-chessboard the unusual and beautiful Marbled White.    

An old crooked apple tree, with lichen covered branches, lazes at the end of the meadow, keeping an eye of the productive vegetable patch. 
A feature throughout the garden, is metal work, with quirky artesian gates and obelisks providing both a smile, and a perfect perch for sun-basking dragonflies.

Birds are here too, with Sparrows, Tits and a tiny Goldcrest, performing their circus tricks in high branches. 

I left the garden, for the shady drive down the hazel-lined lane, with a feeling of total relaxation, and smiling at the knowledge that even as I travelled back into town, bees and butterflies were still dancing between flowers of purple, yellow and white, beneath the summer sun. 

The garden is open through July, in support of Sussex Wildlife Trust.
To visit, contact Jean with your preferred date, via twitter @Selfseeding or ring 07939 272 443