One garden, two houses, some lessons from the past and hope for the future. A look at life in New Zealand, a bit of history and a Morris jig or two.
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With apologies to The Black Peach Theatre Co for using the title of their mid-winter theatre sports evening. While NZ was storm-wracked, the company managed to stage their monthly show in Rangiora in spite of floods, a broken bridge, snow and gales. Pity I couldn't be there...
Or do I mean here?
This November has felt so like England's June this year. Warm balmy weather with a misting of damp days to keep things growing, few vicious winds, roses blooming profusely... Five months ago the cabbage trees (or palms) were flowering along the seafront at Torquay, and in Barbara Hepworth's Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Cornwall.
But come here to see what they can really do. They have stolen the show this year all around Ashley, their big densely-packed plumes scenting the whole village. The blossom is going over now, aided by cooler temperatures and rain over the last few days. Rain. What a good excuse to take a stroll back through that glorious British summer of 2013.
A walk down memory lane - or the Oxford Canal towpath - was a must, since Elwin and I spent four years living here on the Hythe Bridge Arm.
How lucky I feel to still have family in Oxford, to be able walk home through the meadows
that patchwork this paradoxical city;
to stroll in University grounds like the Corpus Christi College garden on its public open day;
or explore the margins of the city - places like Headington Quarry where we found this
Wisteria cascading over a garden wall.
But, to escape the crowds in town
the Cotswold countryside was a refreshing retreat:
a place to find traditional village morris dancers
like the guardians of the Stanton Harcourt tradition - on one of their two annual appearances
- at the village's mid-summer fete;
or just to watch ducklings on a village duck pond:
at Ducklington on this occasion.
Touring further afield, Kitty and I visited ancestral territory.
She made a daisy chain for her great great great grandfather, David Hobby, at Brympton d'Evercy in Somerset, and we walked the domain of his son William (my great grandfather). He was Head Gardener not far away at Montacute House while his father occupied the same role at Brympton.
In the nearby National Trust garden of Tintinhull I found a patch that could have been my own, though here in New Zealand this easy overgrown ramble of Cherokee rose and Apple tree with self-sown docks, seeding grasses and buttercup is considered something in-need of tidying up.
These wildflowers, speedwell and buttercup, also grow wild in my garden. Here their free and pretty nature was in stark contrast to the view across the road
of Dartmoor Prison.
And crossing Dartmoor we left June behind.
While I have been writing this post, Black Peach have been rehearsing for this month's show in my lounge room. And since the show is a round-up of the year's best acts, entitled Pick of the Crop, I should get to see some of what I missed in June!
I've been back in the Secret Garden for a couple of months now. After leaving my blog to its own devices for three months, I thought I'd dash off a welcome homepostas soon as I arrived back.
A traveller's round-up maybe
Really it was - and is - good to be back. A pity that in that first week home, the biggest gale in nearly 40 years blew any tranquility away. We were lucky here in the Secret Garden. We only suffered loss of power, ash-fall in the night and a few cast willow branches. Elsewhere, forestry lots were smashed to pieces or destroyed by wild fires, trees were uprooted, roads were closed, and cows went unmilked. Then our friend, Gerald died, and it was hard to find joy in being back home. Two days ago we remembered losing Elwin, and I know that it's time to gather my strength again and celebrate what I do have, and what I can do.
Spring is here, early summer really, a match for the season that was blooming in England when I arrived at the beginning of June; the beginning of that remarkable heated summer... Now there's a tale to tell! Double pink may, Crataegus laevigata 'Rosea Flore Pleno' (seedling grown)