Well, long time no post. I'm sorry to have been out of touch. And my last post sounds like a different, wet world, doesn't it? Thankfully that's not so any more, for this May has been amazingly hot, bright and beautiful.
Actually, we should have been in Italy to meet up with family. I should have been telling you all about the Duomo, and icecreams, and stuff like that. But, T needed an operation, nothing very serious, and there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about the timing. So we didn't go. As it turned out, the weather in Turin was nasty and in England it was beautiful, so it turned out for the best that we stayed, and it was a chance to follow up on the project of exploring nature, wild places and nature reserves. (In the UK it's possible to find some fantastic places by checking out local wildlife trusts.)
We stayed for just over a week in Eastern Suffolk, and found a place called Darsham Marshes that we'd never seen before. One of the highlights there for us was this tree in full blossom, all 30-odd feet of it (10 metres). It's actually one fallen tree which remained alive and some of its branches transformed themselves into trees, so now it seems like a whole grove of flowering apples. A picture doesn't do it justice, but what an experience standing in the midst of it surrounded by blossom with the birds singing their lungs out.
Not far away, near the drowned village of Dunwich, we took a footpath leading up onto low cliffs, to see what remains of Greyfriars Abbey.
There is not a great deal, although enough to be interesting. The abbey was sacked by King Henry VIII, who left the gatehouse you can see in the centre of the photo (someone stables horses inside the site), and the walls surrounding the site are still there, showing from the sheer size that it was a pretty important place. There are also remains of the abbey itself within the walls, though much of the stone from these huge ruins was used by local people for building their own places, I believe - and very sensible of them too, as it turned out, since the sea would have got the abbey anyhow a couple of centuries later. ... look at this set of rather blurry old pictures.
They show what happened to the local church, St. James, which stood right by Greyfriars. Now, no trace of the church remains on the site. The sea also devoured the churchyard, except for just one grave which stands right by the cliff edge. When Jacob Forster's grieving relatives buried him in 1796, they can't have imagined he'd have achieved this posthumous fame, can they?
In fact, while we were awaiting this op, the weather forecast was good nearly every day, so it was the perfect distraction to go out. One evening, sitting in a field at Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, by the river, I noticed great green and purple dragonflies flying all around. It was clearly their mating season so I evilly violated their privacy by taking a few photos. I don't pretend to understand exactly how it works, or how they stop their legs getting tangled up.
A couple of days later, at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire, these hillside woods were shaded by what I think was once a beech hedge. The hedge must have been abandoned at least a century ago as what there is now is a line of bushy trees with long spreading branches.
Also around this area - chalk hills called the Chilterns - we were surprised to find so many woods still full of bluebells. I think the extremely cold early Spring held all the usual flowers back.
By contrast, here are the trunks and branches of the tall confirous woodland near Marlston Hermitage in Berkshire. I thought they looked decorative enough to have been painted - as the backdrop of a play, perhaps. I once saw a performance of Chekhov's "Wild Honey" which is set in a mysterious Northern forest, which could suit these trees very well.
Maidensgrove, nearby, has a fabulous common currently full of all kinds of wild flowers, including buttercups, and lots of wild may out on the trees. My new blog header photo was taken there. And the village also has a 17th century pub called the Five Horseshoes, which has an idyllic location and does great food.
Back in London, T had his operation on Saturday, so we both missed the Royal Wedding. To his great surprise (and pleasure) he felt well enough to come out for a walk across Regents Park today and as a result we saw more daisies in one place than either of us had ever seen in our lives.
And the baby ducks are growing well.
On the other side of the park we went to a small but ingenious exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects about perspective and imaginary spaces. He insisted on having his photo taken walking through one of the perspective installations, so he really is feeling better.....
Having been outside so much this month, I'm seriously behind with just about everything that happens at home, so I'd better start catching up now that the sun has gone in. Everything from sorting out a malfunctioning credit card, to sorting out plants, and of course catching up on writing. I have been looking at (though not commenting much) on blogs - but I will, and I hope you've also been enjoying the month of May.
We are also considering trying to pop over to Northern Italy a bit later in the summer for a long weekend. We'll see.