Ifield Millpond in Winter

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I walked round Ifield Millpond yesterday. It was a beautiful, cold, crisp, winter morning. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun hung low, so that blinding sunlight bounced off the frozen surface of the millpond, making photography difficult. The grass and undergrowth were rimed with frost, and ice scrunched underfoot. A heron who habitually sits at the waters’ edge, was perched on the branch of a tree. The water birds, usually seen swimming happily, were today skidding and skating precariously on the ice. Three Canada geese one behind the other slowly and carefully plodded towards a patch of open water near the bridge. The first two held their footing reasonable well, but the last one slipped drunkenly on every step – two steps forward and one slip-step backwards. Seagulls coming to land, ran a few slippery steps, wings flapping wildly to keep their balance before coming to a standstill. A solitary duck padded across the ice, webbed feet flapping, but the rest of the ducks seemed to be crowded into a narrow stretch of water between the bank and the boardwalk.
The funniest of all had to be the coots. They looked rather like misshapen, feathered rugby-balls, with ungainly legs and long flat toes that are usually hidden under the water. No doubt the toes with flabby flaps of skin that act rather like webbed feet are ideal for paddling through water, but they are not really designed for walking on ice! The faster the coots tried to go, the more they slipped and slithered. But however much difficulty the birds had staying upright on the ice, I didn’t see any actually fall over; and thankfully neither did I!

 

I’m back again

I’m back again; not that I’ve truly been away, but ‘life’ has happened, as it so often does, and I’ve been away from my blog for far too long. Now I’m back again, no doubt over the next few posts I’ll put into words some of the things that have happened over the last couple of months.

In the meantime, autumn has come and gone. Winter is here, and what a strange winter it has been so far. Over shadowing, depressing greyness, rain by the sky-full, very wet, very muddy, and unseasonably warm. Before Christmas I spotted an urban roundabout completely covered with confused daffodils that usually don’t flower until well into February; had anyone told them they were a full two months early? I’ve spotted snowdrops and hellebores – not quite so seasonally out of kilter. And I have a sprinkling of pale purple anemones splattered across the sunnier borders in my garden.
Last week we had hail, like ice marbles, clattering and bouncing on roofs and pathways, enough to almost bury the patio. Then we had a couple of mild frosts, that have taken us by surprise, and unaccustomed as we are to the cold this year, made us feel that we’d been dropped into the Arctic! Then finally this morning, we awoke to a world dusted with an inch or so of snow – the first snow of a very peculiar winter. It’s almost completely gone now, and who knows if there will be any more.
At this time of year I would usually be looking forward to spring, and eagerly watching out for signs of growth, but this year I really feel that we haven’t truly had any winter yet. So over the next few days I’m hoping for some cold, frosty mornings, with a crackle underfoot, a bite and a sparkle in the air, and with bright clear blue skies; then I can start looking forward to spring properly. Anemones

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!

Crocuses

Have you seen the size of the crocuses this year? They are simply huge. Beautiful sunshine yellow, deep regal purple, pure snowy white, purple streaked with white; all closely clumped together in the grass and standing tall. Hidden in the soil, they’ve lived through dark dreary times this winter, with weeks of grey skies and exceptionally wet, stormy weather; but the crocuses seem to have responded by growing so much bigger and brighter than usual.
Sometimes I think we can be a bit like that. We all go through really hard dark times, but if we let them, these difficult life experiences can change us for the better. And then, when we come out into the sunlight at the other end, we will be bigger people.

yellow crocus

2014 – In like a Lion!

I awoke this morning to sun streaming in through the window, bright and cheerful. It’s certainly a welcome change after the last few weeks of dismal, wall-to-wall grey clouds, rain and more rain, wind and more wind. The weather in the UK so far this year, has been truly awful. I am filled with awe when I see the ferocious intensity of the crashing waves, the destructive roaring power of the wind, and the relentless advance of encroaching flood-waters. And when I see on the news the devastation of flooded homes, livelihoods destroyed, fields become vast lakes, roads turned to waterways, I realise that I’ve come off pretty lightly.

Return to Winter

Well! So much for my post about spring, and warm weather on the horizon. Today we awoke to snow, and so far it has snowed hard most of the day. It may be March, but I think someone’s hit the rewind button, and we’ve been unceremoniously plunged back into the depths of winter again!
My dog Brinny still wanted her walk of course, so I wrapped up well, and we ventured out into the cold. The sky was grey and leaden, and the wind bitingly cold, flinging myriads of tiny snowflakes and ice-crystals in our faces. The snowdrops are completely buried, and the newly emerged daffodils are bowed down, their heads hanging sadly.
Spring has turned tail and fled, leaving winter to reign supreme for a little longer.

A Mysterious Seed Head

I spotted this interesting seed head this afternoon, nestled in the undergrowth of my friend’s garden. It is beautiful, a natural work of art with intricate veining like delicate lace. It is just over four centimetres long, and is amazingly strong, flexing without breaking when I gently squeeze it. Over the cold winter months it has remained completely undamaged, protecting one knobbly brown seed that still lies safely tucked away inside.
I have no idea what flower this seed head comes from, and if anyone out there can shed any light on it, I’d love to know.

Seedhead