Caribbean Cruise – St Kitts – Romney Manor

The next stop on our Caribbean cruise was Basseterre, the capital city of the tiny island of St Kitts, where we were booked on a tour. The coach took us out of Basseterre, along the coast, and on the beach we spotted a pair of brown pelicans, the national bird of St Kitts, and later on saw energetic young egrets nesting in bushy, low-growing trees. We then turned inland, and before long arrived at Romney Manor, once the great house for a sugar plantation. St Kitts and Nevis are both volcanic in origin, with very rich fertile soil, ideal for the production of sugar. The islands were settled by the British in the 16oos, because of the huge financial gains to be had in the international sugar trade. Romney Manor was once owned by Sam Jefferson an ancestor of Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of USA, but was sold to the Earl of Romney in the 17th Century, and was then called Romney Manor. In 1834, the estate became the first plantation to free all of its slaves. Part of the estate has now been made into beautiful botanic gardens. Narrow paths twist through borders of bright, tropical plants and flowers, and a carefully kept lawn surrounds a 400 year old saman tree. The valley below is covered in thick green vegetation.

Within the gardens is a collection of buildings where Caribelle Batik create beautiful and unique fabric designs. They utilise traditional Indonesian methods using wax and brightly coloured dyes on high quality cotton fabric, that have unsurprisingly become the most sought after batik textiles in the Caribbean. We watched a fascinating demonstration, and saw swathes of newly finished batik designs drying in the warm air. Then we browsed around the extensive shop, where choosing what to buy was very difficult!

Does anyone know what the white flower is? It looks a bit like giant honeysuckle to me.

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See the life in winter

This morning the sky is an unrelenting grey, sombre and lifeless, sapping my very being. The trees are mere skeletons, each tiny twig hard and stark against the cold sky. Yesterday I felt full of energy and life, but it seems to have evaporated over night, leaving me low and dispirited.

Then up high there is a movement, and I see a single solitary seagull wheeling across the bleak expanse of cloud. Suddenly a squirrel catches my eye as it scampers along the top of the fence, and a small flock of starlings fly overhead. A couple of pigeons alight on the pergola, rather early in the year for their amorous courtship. I can hear a bird singing, a blackbird or robin, the sound reaches me even though my window is closed against the chill air. I see green ivy twisting and turning around the lower branches of the old oak tree. The world outside is not dead at all. I begin to come to life myself, and despite the grey skies my spirit lifts a little. To my mind’s eye, the steely grey sky becomes slightly softer, the twigs become more feathery and less harsh, and somehow full of future potential. When I look closely, even in the cold of winter there is life.

 

Autumn Colours

Aren’t the autumn colours beautiful? The skies might be overcast and grey; but the brightness of the leaves make up for it! The leaves of the cornus or dog wood were some of the first to change, fading to dusky pink, and hanging on red stems, while most trees around were still green. Then was the turn of the maple in all its different varieties. Now the furry sumac branches are aflame with red and orange, and all the lower leaves are gone. The hornbeam leaves turned bright yellow, but most have already fallen, and next doors old Oak, who always holds on the longest, is at last sprinkling its crisp yellow-brown leaves thickly across the grass.

 

Well-rooted

I visited Wakehurst Gardens a little while ago, and took a wander through the sheltered ravines of the Rock Walk. Sand rock outcrops are a valuable landscape feature of the High Weald areas of Sussex, where cryptogam plants, many extremely rare, enjoy the moist, shady conditions. Wakehurst and Chiddingly Woods has been designated a site of Special Scientific Interest in order to conserve these special plants. I always stand awhile, amazed, and wonder how these plants and trees can hold onto the rock so securely, and I am astounded that somehow they obtain enough moisture and nutrients to survive. It reminds me too, how tightly I need to cling to God, and how tightly He holds on to me, so that I am secure through the storms of life. And it shows me how even when the going is tough He sustains me and feeds me with the water of life, and I am able to endure.

Carrier Bags in Trees

I hate litter! Cans, bottles, sweet wrappers, chewing gum trodden into the pavement. But most of all I hate carrier bags caught on twigs and fluttering in the trees. Human refuse billowing in the breeze, despoiling the simple loveliness of nature. I see them out of the corner of my eye, and they have my unwilling attention, as they jerk and gyrate in a macabre dance. I hate it even more when those carrier bags are entangled in my trees. You’ve guessed it; there’s been a dirty white carrier bag caught high up in one of my hornbeam trees for a few days. Someone else’s rubbish, just out of reach, taunting me, mocking me as it twisted and turned with every slight movement of the wind.
Finally I searched down the side of the shed, and unearthed an old bean stake, to which years ago I taped a hanger hook for just such occasions. Precariously balanced on a step-ladder, at full stretch, and with the full length of my bean-stake hook, I just managed to catch the bag and bring it to earth. It took a bit of effort, but now my lovely hornbeam tree is ready to burst into leaf over the next few weeks, without the added adornment of an old carrier bag!

Glow Wild at Wakehurst

Christmas Tree

Last Thursday evening we went to the Glow Wild Festival at Wakehurst Gardens in West Sussex, a brand new event for this year. It was fabulous, and well worth braving the cold night air! With our own triangular lantern on a pole, we followed the marked pathway through a darkened landscape, lit by thousands of lights and lanterns in different shapes and colours. Throughout most of the mile long trail we could see in the distance the tallest living Christmas tree in the UK, standing in front of the Mansion House, and lit with garlands of lights.

 

After collecting our lantern, we followed the path down and away from the house. Colour changing lanterns floated on the Mansion Ponds like enormous water lilies, their coloured reflections mirrored in the still water.

 

Moon over water Garden

 

 

Further on, to where a huge white crescent moon and a galaxy of stars were hung above the Water Gardens, reflecting clearly in the dark waters beneath.
Spiral of Fire

 

 

 

Up the steep trail from the Water Gardens, we came upon a huge spiral of fire lanterns, the heat rising in an orange-red haze, and bringing a welcome warm glow to our cold cheeks.

 

The trail then wound in amongst the trees, where coloured lanterns inspired by seeds and seed pods were hanging high up in the branches. These had been created by local school children.

In the first area of the Walled Garden were scores of tiny braziers, burning with the aromatic scent of frankincense and myrrh. Standing tall in the distance was the Christmas tree, the lights twinkling high above the warm glow of the braziers. The path then passed through a gateway, and wove between huge lantern sculptures of exotic flowers.

Then we were back to the Stables Restaurant, where there was mulled wine and hot chocolate. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and well planned event, that covered four evenings last week. My only disappointment – I was looking forward to the advertised roasted chestnuts, and on Thursday there were none as far as I could see! Despite that, I do hope Wakehurst will repeat the Glow Wild evenings next year – I shall be looking out for them!