Saturday, 9 February 2008

Swans at sunset


In London during the week, and travelling to Devon for the weekend the promise of spring is everywhere. Gordon Square, in Bloomsbury, was frothy with blossom, while crocuses bejewelled the grass, purple and golden in the sunlight. From the train on Friday, the first blackthorn was evident in the hedgerows.

On such a lovely day the journey was a pleasure; just outside Pewsey we passed a pigfarm, where a litter of Gloucester Old Spot piglets were enjoying the warmth. Several other rare breeds could be seen, Tamworth for certain and a pure black pig with Tamworth lines, perhaps a cross. I shall be looking out for them in future. Further west is the birdspotting section on line, from the water meadows below Stoke Woods near Exeter, along the coast to Newton Abbot. It's not so very many years since, with great excitement, I saw my first little egret at Dawlish Warren, a lone white figure on the marshes. Now they are a regular sight, sometimes in quite large numbers, hunting the mud flats all along that stretch, and they are becoming a common bird all over southern England. A couple of years ago my family and I spent a very pleasant afternoon taking a boat trip from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle, on the Solent, where we were able to watch egrets from the boat – I decided that, were I one, I would spend all day admiring my long yellow toes in the water. Not just little egrets, either – my mother was lucky enough to see a great egret on the Dart, and I heard on the radio that even cattle egrets have been sighted here. (I reported seeing a little egret on the Tweed at Berwick two years ago, but I don't think it was corroborated and therefore probably not official.)

Not many egrets of any kind in sight this weekend, however, but other waders, shelduck and swans (and the black swans on the other side of the train at Teignmouth). I'm writing this while watching the rooks and jackdaws in the trees at the foot of the garden – the rooks like to catch the evening sun in a Scots pine. A trio of swans is flapping lazily up the valley. The lawns are awash with snowdrops, the pink camellia is in full flower and the crocuses are a bright tapestry beneath the beech tree. While we walked round the garden considering necessary pruning, and even tackling the odd branch (my mother never goes out without her secateurs) next door's children, faces darkened with camouflage, stalked us through the undergrowth. This is a wonderful garden for children, full of almost-inaccessible paths and vertiginous slopes, so that you could believe you were in the jungle, or the boreal forest – being Devon the planting, some of which dates back to the beginning of the last century, lends itself to either. Of course, I didn't grow up here, and if you had told me when I first saw the house and garden that one day I would feel in some measure responsible for it, I would never have believed it. I'm not proprietorial – I shall never live here, but I've known the place for nearly 40 years, and I lie awake during gales wondering if the trees will all still be standing in the morning.

The sun has set now and I can hear the dog being fed downstairs. Time to go and help with the supper. Local sausages and mash, scrumptious.

9 comments:

elizabethm said...

What a lovely blog. My parents have lived in Devon for 3 years and I feel very at home there. Know that train journey very well. Spring has been all around here too, real warmth in the sun and a breeze with warmth not chill. I shall go past Gordon Square on Tuesday and look for the crocus.

Nan - said...

Oh, how I loved reading this on a 26ยบ F Sunday morning, with daffodils three months away. I could 'see' everything you wrote about, especially those pigs and egrets. Are Tamworths the reddish pigs? Wonderful to know these old breeds are doing well. Is this house a vacation home? Perhaps you have written about this in earlier posts which I haven't read yet. Lovely writing, and so wonderfully descriptive.

Rob Clack said...

Sounds idyllic. Still pretty chilly here in eStanglia, but a bright, sunny day encouraging me to believe spring is imminent.

Table Talk said...

How lovely. Do continue to have a wonderful time. Spring is definitely here - I've just heard the first ice-cream van of the season!

elizabethm said...

I popped back here to see if you had blogged again and see i managed to tell you my parents had lived in Devon for 3 years when I meant for 30. Hi ho.

mountainear said...

Your 'secret' garden sounds an enchanted place - your tenuous link must be a precious thing. I'm sure we all have places like that.

I will also be passing through Bloomsbury next week - will play 'spot the crocus' too!

GeraniumCat said...

I am delighted that Elizabeth and Mountainear will be looking out for the crocuses this week - they were wonderful in Devon, too, and now I've got my internet connection back I've added a picture from the Devon garden. And today's post has some Tamworths for Nan.

I haven't heard an ice-cream van for years, TT! The OH drove one for a while in our Devon days.

Rob, it was a bit of a shock getting back to Northumberland, where spring is not much in evidence yet. But I'm optimistic!

Lesley said...

Gorgeous post! Now you've got me feeling very nostalgic for English gardens ...

Sorry I didn't reply to your comment a while back. I've been away, and now I'm back in Australia. I've only recently caught up with myself!

GeraniumCat said...

Hi Lesley, nice to hear from you. Even just travelling in Britain I find it hard to keep up with blogging.