Monday, 26 November 2012

Jubilee Orchard - a community project

Friday 23rd November. Planting day!
This time last year the local Rotary Club had an idea. they wanted to plant a tree, or some trees to mark the Queen's Jubilee in 2012. through discussions with interested people including the Cichichester District Council, the idea developed and the result was a fantastic community project; A Community Orchard. in total 35 trees were sponsored by a variety of individuals, businesses and organisations in the Midhurst area.  The trees themselves were donated by Rotherhill Nurseries who also provided planting and care advice. Apples, pears, plums and cherries all featured in the 35. 
Throughout the week wet day followed wet day, the skies seemed to get ever darker as rain fell persistently and gales raked through the tree tops, howling round the sides of buildings where people eyed the weather forecasters on TV with gloomy disdain. 
At last the planting day arrived and with it, the clouds parted and sunshine was greeted with relieved smiles and happy banter as the volunteer hole diggers got to work. The day remained fine and the afternoon saw tree sponsors and other local folk alike smiling with satisfaction at the new orchard that now graces Jubilee Path, nr South Pond and Taylors Field, Midhurst. Imaginations were filled with images of pretty blossom and ripening fruit in the year to come. The fruit will be free for anyone to pick, the orchard is a place for the community to enjoy, its been described as 'a gift for life'. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Time warp

Ever get that feeling where you look around you and realise that the scene you are part of hasn't seen any drastic changes in a hundred years or more? A car glints from behind a hedge here, the fashion is a little more modern there, and transmission masts on the hill top give away the decade. And yet, some elements are totally unchanged and characters could easily have walked out of a TV drama or novel, set many years into the past. Photos taken on these occasions cry out to be developed with special treatment and given a sepia tint. 

Dogs and Downs, a day on the Goodwood Estate

Wednesday 14th November

A grey dawn preceded a glorious day. Bright sunshine fell from an endless sapphire sky, highlighting tree-top leaf and rolling hill side. Long dark shadows, growing and shrinking with the passing hours and movement of the sun, crept across golden stubble from the woodland edge where an audience of beech and oak, ash and chestnut shivered gently in the breeze, bronze and orange leaves swirling to the ground. Those fields not embroidered with golden stubble, stretched as textured green carpets, emerald growth fed by a warm wet season past. The sun was surprisingly warm by mid day, coats and jumpers were shed and thrown in the back of mud splattered Land Rovers. Dogs and men alike revelled in the sense of space, the rolling view that poured before them, highlighted by caressing sun and running shadows  breathing deep the fresh clean air. Friendly banter echoed across the fields, spirits lifted by a shared unspoken love of life, of moment, of place.   

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Remembrance Poppies

One day during the last week of October I was walking along the South Downs Way, above the tiny Shepherd's church at Didling, and the villages of Bepton and Cocking in West Sussex, admiring the view of wooded Weald and patchwork farmland stretching into the distance towards the blue shadows of Black Down, the highest point in Sussex. It was a cold and windy day, feeling very much as though winter had arrived. There were countless pheasants in the field margins and old-man's-beard shining silver in the hedgerows. Overhead, buzzards soared on thermals which they shared with gliders that glinted in the sun, whilst walkers and cyclists passed by me along the track. I wonder how many saw the clump of scarlet poppies growing on the bank, their tissue paper petals buffeted by the wind? I wonder how many paused to think of the remembrance day to come, and of fallen soldiers of both long ago and recent times? I saw. I stopped. I remembered. On 11th November, I hope you will remember too. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Glorious Morning

I woke yesterday morning to bright sunshine reflecting off a white frost. The temperature was surely close to freezing; the water in the bird bath had frozen solid and the soil in the flower beads was hard. The grass, white and crispy, crunched beneath my feet as I topped up and re-hung the bird feeders. I had to breathe on my fingers to warm them up as I headed back indoors. I had hardly shut the door before blue tits were dashing back and forth between bird feeder and bushes, house sparrows gripped the slippery perches, pecking at sunflower hearts. The tinkling calls of goldfinches could be heard in the tree tops and raucous starlings squabbled over the half-coconut-shells, burying their sharp beaks into the energy rich fat.
Half an hour later I was heading through the housing estate and out onto the farm track. Blackbirds rummaged through crunchy leaf litter and crowds of corvids wheeled over the fields, tumbling down to feed on the cattle fodder. Starlings joined them from chattering groups perched in the high branches of the hedgerow oaks. Sparrows and finches sipped melt water from iced puddles that had formed in wheel ruts. 
In the farm yard and around the buildings, birds gathered in search of warm shelter, and frost-free food. The open face of the silage clamp attracted numerous small birds; chaffinches, sparrows and pied wagtails. Jackdaws called and flapped, tugging at the maze silage meant for winter cattle feed. Pheasants strutted along the top of the silage mountain, joined for a while by a pair of red-legged partridges drawn in from the fields by the promise of easy pickings. 
Beyond the bend by the old dairy, where stray wisps of straw blow on the wind and portly wood pigeons perch on the roof ridge, the track passes a terrace of brick cottages where in the summer washing blow-dries on lines strung across the garden, and at night spaniels bark from kennels at the scent of foxes passing unseen in the dark. Chickens, seemingly bemused by the sudden cold and frozen ground, huddled in a group by the thick hedge, preening feathers and awaiting their morning feed. Two adventurous kittens, fur as black as ink, peered from between stacked hay-bales at the edge of the field opposite the cottages, wary of strange humans. 
The day was beginning to warm slightly, and the once diamond frost was slowly lifting as steam from fence rail and rooftop, rising towards a bluest of skies, but all the same I was glad to wrap my hands around a hot cup of tea on my return home. 6th of November, the day after bonfire night, and the first truly cold day of the winter.