Sentinels and gnarliness, wild spaces and a grumble…..

bare and dismal

Gah, I’m still all full of cold, with a snuffley red nose and a lap full of tissues….I’d tried to cut out as much dairy from my diet as I know that always makes my colds worse, then stupidly I ate a whole load of cheese at the weekend (think Animal from the muppets at his drums, and that’s an idea of what I’m like with a plate of cheesey delights)…..however we had lovely weather at the weekend, lots of Winter sunshine and the windows and doors were all flung wide open so the fresh air could fill the house…..the mornings were very mild to some we’ve been having and while I’m catching the odd weather report on the wireless where speculations of a snowy Easter are being made, it also feels like we’re really easing more into Spring now and saying farewell to Winter ……

I really didn’t feel up to going for a walk at the weekend, but instead sorted out the rest of the foggy and frosty photos from my walk the other week…..this is a view of the marshes I don’t often share, it’s not one of the meadow pastures that fill with wild flowers, though in the Summer the odd cow can be found grazing…..however in the mist the trees seem more noticeable than on the clearer days….tall shapes lurking at the edge of my vision, standing guard like sentinels…..it feels like they’ve crept up behind me while my back was turned…..

branches span out like veins through a heart

All the branches are bare for the moment and I probably should know which trees these are but I don’t, I’ve made some scribbles in a walks journal to remind myself to check back on them once they’re in leaf…..the mist and fog were so thick that this fellow truly just loomed right up out of nowhere and completely took me by surprise……the trail is quite meandering and follows round a tangled mass of old blackberry bushes and blackthorn trees, then you turn a corner and are faced by all this openness, which on a day that’s foggy seems particularly eerie and unsettling…….the big trees only grow in this one section, the other meadows have just the odd blackthorn or hawthorn tree.

a gnarly tangle

In comparison to their neighbours these both look gnarly, scrubby old things, trees that seem to have appeared from out of the pages of a fairy tale or folk story…twisted branches that catch and grasp at your clothes and hair like witches fingers, all full of malicious tree spirits, or things of that nature, it doesn’t help their appearance that both trees tend to be covered in mouldy looking lichens and green moss……but for me these are trees for celebrating, they’re part of my foragers store cupboard…..come Autumn they’ll be filled with sloes and haws which will be used to transform gin and be hubbled and bubbled with sugar and appples to make jellies and syrups…. my own witches cauldron of magickal happenings……

blackthorn grove

A little spot that has made my heart really quicken from when I first noticed it is this wee patch of wilderness…….umpteen tiny blackthorn bushes…..I’m not sure how long blackthorns take to grow but fingers crossed any “conservation”* work done on the marshes will leave these well alone so they’ll grow up into a fat old thicket of tasty sloes…..

They had a few sloes on them last year, and at just below knee height make picking the berries much easier than reaching up into the twisty gnarls of some of the older trees…they also provide handy little perch points for all the tits and sparrows that live near by.

What I can’t really get across is just how bitterly cold it is walking over the marshes on mornings like this…it’s easy to wrap up with scarves, shawls, hats and mittens but there’s a real open freezer door quality to the air which soon numbs cheeks and noses, nips at knees and rises up from the ground, there’s a scent of decaying leaves and damp which in an enclosed space would smell pretty bad but here in the open it’s the smell of the land sleeping, signs of something stirring are apparent in flourishes of blossom, but for the most part it feels like I’m walking through the wildest of slumbers…….

*there’s been a lot of so called “conservation” work done over the marshes and in some of the green spaces where I live over the past couple of years,  and as is often the way when things change it’s been causing a lot of fuss with people I see and chat to when I go out for walks….and while I realize some work is needed, I think someone has been let loose who is more than just a bit gung ho with the chainsaw, trees seem rather heavily pruned and pollarded, or just plain cut down…complaints to the council seem for the most part to either get given the run around or fall on deaf ears……one section where there was a lovely bank of elder has all been cut down, now all planted with bulbs to look pretty….their reasons were it was all overgrown with brambles which was a nonsence, there weren’t any brambles there at all and it made my heart sink when I saw what had happened….A few years back a huge metal fence (it looks like something from a prison or high security area) was put up stopping entrance to one small woodland here …I know I wasn’t the only person to question why this was done and the replies given were numerous and all sounded like they were being made up on the hop….I wonder how many people really walk around here with their eyes open, taking note of the different blossoms, wild flowers, it’s home and habitiat for so much wildlife and birds….it just feels like someone is trying to pretty up all the little wild green spots without really caring about any of the long term effects…I ‘d understand a bit more their reasoning if these were spots which were being fly tipped and used as rubbish dumps but that wasn’t the case at all….sorry for grumbling but this has really been getting my goat of late.

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Milky soft Blackthorn blossoms and crusty lichen roves….

blossom down the lane

I’m so muddle headed feeling at the moment, I hate having a cold, I never know whether I’m coming or going and constantly feel like I’m two days behind in my week….I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s no good me trying to get anything much of anything done and to just take time out, not to stress and to let things be…..it means “to do’s” falling behind and not gettting done but experience tells me this doesn’t mean the world ends….chores can wait and it’s far better to just rest…..also “Doctor” Bernard has been wedging himself half on my lap and half down the side of the sofa so it pretty much stops me from doing too much as I don’t like to disturb him when he’s so cosy…

We’ve had another couple of frosty mornings this past week but I’ve kept in-doors in the warm and have been well wrapped up with shawls and blankets…the weather seems as wobbly as my head as we’ve also had days where the late Winter sunshine has been really glorious….the other Sunday before we both took sickly we went for a stroll down the lane, not far, just a half hour walk, an hour tops, enough to shake out the cobwebs and return home all ruddy cheeked and noses pink.

mossy greens and milky white

There’s a long stretch of Blackthorn hedges and trees which are all in blossom, frothy and delicate, the most milky white, with yellow and gold whiskers inside already heavy with pollen….

It’s too early for bees to be buzzing around them, tumbling and rolling over the petals, but the hedgerows are home to a whole wealth of birds…mostly this part of the lane seems to be full of blue tits and great tits, whenever I try to capture them in a picture it ends up looking a right blurry old mess, so I’m content to just stand still and watch them….long tailed tits fly over from the the other side where the marshes have big colonies of them, quite often we’ll spy a hawthorn tree with anything from a dozen upwards of tiny fluffy white and grey, charcoal and rose tinted birds with those instantly recognizable tails…

spring is on its way

The hawthorn blossom isn’t heady like when we go and walk up in the woods to see the bluebells, where the scent makes me all sleepy, heavy and slow …..instead it fills the air with an uplifting  sweet and crisp freshness.  The combination of milky white blossom, crusty roves* of lichen and the mossy green smudges on the branches is one of my favourite, both blossoms and moss feel velvety but where one is smooth the other often allows your fingers to press deep and leave behind a faint imprint.

fragile and pale blossoms

It’s often hard to tell what something is in the hedgerow and a few weeks ago before the blossom was out it would have been near impossible, however Blackthorns are pretty much the first of the hedgerow trees to blossom (make a note if you see any because it’s from these trees which come October you’ll be able to gather sloes for gin and vodka)…..they won’t be hawthorns as even though it’s mild they’ll be another month at least…another way to tell the two apart is that Blackthorns blossom before their leaves appear, and hawthorns have their leaves first before they show any sign of blossoming….their leaves are also quite different in appearance but as they aren’t showing yet that doesn’t really help you identify them. (once they’re out, the Blackthorn leaf is almost oval,  pointy at each end, the hawthorn is much more like a tiny oak leaf, all meandering ins and outs in shape).  Hawthorns are edible too but they are better slowly cooked along with rosehips for syryps and citrusy tasting preserves.

 

*when we were small and fall over and get a cut, as it healed over we’d call what formed on top a “rove”…it’s a proper old Suffolk term and one I know not so many people seem to use, certainly not once you’re out of the Suffolk and Norfolk area as I alwasy have to explain what I mean to friends from out of this region.  “Rove” sounds much nicer to my ears than “scab” which always makes me think of old toad backs and unpleasant things, not that a rove is a particularly nice looking athing but just saying “scabby” makes me shudder.

lambtail catkins, a woodpecker and the mossiest green under a whisper of frost….

alder tree

One of my favourite trees is the Alder, and all around one bend of the river there’s a small grouping of them, with slooping and spindly branches that nearly touch the ground.  When the branches are all bare they look more like they’re scratching outwards, all witches fingers as they catch in my hair if I clamber about too deep underneath them…brrrr…at the moment the branches are adorned with both catkins and small cones (Alder has both male flowers and female flowers on the same tree, the dangling lamb-like tail catkins are the males while the female flowers look like the tiniest little fir cones.)

catkins and fir cones

These all grow right on the river bank, and in the Summer they’re often seen with branches full of tiny birds, resting before darting out to catch some of the insects which fly and flutter about over the water……

In the Winter months those lichen coated wood gnarly fingers can enchant me for ages, I’m happy to stand and look at all the tiny flecks of colour, and watch the birds flying overhead, or hop and dance along the branches searching for food.

a scratchy silhouette against the sky

While I’m taking photos I can hear a woodpecker….it’s always hard to judge exactly where they are as the sound echoes, and when it’s foggy it seems even harder to get a bearing…..and then a dart of colour flies out of the mist and it’s in one of the alders above my head, leaf green and white with splashes of red…..a few beady eyed glances around then it’s off  and the noise starts up again.  I’ve seen both the European green (which this was) and the great spotted woodpecker in our garden a few times, mostly sitting on one of the fences, and certainly not quite so close as this….I’m no @jenireid when it comes to taking photos of wild birds, my pictures always come out a bit blurred, and I’m more content to stand and gawp then struggle to focus my camera.

I used to be friends with a lovely elderly couple and they had woodpeckers come to their feeding station everyday, both of the larger species would happily feed side by side with all the other birds…..(their garden was a real wildlife haven and once when Mrs E. was washing up, a roe deer that had been eating her flowers looked up and stared at her through the window over the washing up bowl…..)

All very u nlike the tits that have of late become the playground bullies of our garden…it’s not all of them but the great tits and blue tits are terrible, between them they chase off blackbirds and chaffinches, goldfinches and the pair of robins…..we get a lot of long tailed tits, especially when it’s cold, they are probably my favourite as they are so pretty, and their call sounds like a little boy doing farty under the armpit noises….very squeeky sounding and so funny to hear…they dart around and impress me more than any display by the Red Arrows, they’ll happily share food with other birds…but the great tits and blue tits fly up and really do seem to go on the attack if someone else is at one of their fat balls….we’ve over a dozen feeders in the garden, no-one is going to go hungry, but they certainly get very territorial. The tiny badger faced coal tits seem to escape their radar as do the pair of wrens that have become quite regular visitors to the garden.  About the only birds that don’t stand for their nonsense are the wood pidgeons and the starlings.

mossy and green

Elsewhere along the river there are small copses, full of clumps of dead and fallen trees, all moss covered and grassy.  In the Autumn they’re covered with the most bizarre looking fungi, from tiny singular mushrooms on the wispiest stem to fat and spawling monsters that look more like insulation foam…this morning in the frost and fog the moss looks so blankety and soft, more like a fur covered woodland creature with grassy green prickles on it’s back…..

like a little sea creature all waverng fronds

Each tiny frond of moss is covered in icy crystals, frozen and quite perfect to look at.  The moss that grows here is really spongy and deep, when it’s warmer it’s nice to sit here, take a few minutes and just be still.  You can stoke and coase the moss then, it’s almost warm in the sunshine and feels more like some sleeping, half enchanted fairy tale creature than something growing.

I love the mix of browns in the bark, how the layers all lift to reveal new shades, new textures, combined with the brightest of greens……I think this would be a good source of colour inspiration for when I start learning how to do stranded knitting…a pattern that incorporates barky wild browns and the bright green of the moss.

 

 

 

frost kissed and tangled….

a tangle of rosehips

The realities of an English Winter are often a far cry from the cosy image portrayed on a Christmas card…snow is shown as something all friendly in those scenes, a soft, sleeping swan covering the landscape with white feathers….here in Norfolk the past couple of years we’ve only ever had a couple of light fluries at most, for us the mild Winters just seem to be damp and dreary.

All too often I think Winter is over before it really is, the hedgerows are a mass of sweet scented blossoms, snowdrops and  crocuses brighten up bare patches on the ground….then a frost hits and the world outside changes.  Everyday walks suddenly seem very unfamiliar…..hedges and trees are covered with white sparkles, and when there’s a fog to boot it really unnerves the senses as sight and sounds are muffled and misted ….it all feels eerie and unexpected and being outdoors is bone chillingly cold.

So far it’s been a very mild Winter this year, heavy frosts have been pretty few and far between and thick morning frosts even fewer…some Winters ago we seemed to have them everyday so we were quite used to only seeing a few feet in front of us first thing in the morning, now when it’s foggy it’s a real shock drawing back the curtains.

frost kissed rosehips

The frost we had last week was so heavy that at times when I was out ambling over the marshes I thought it looked more like a fine layer of snow….it seemed especially so over the rosehips that grow all tangled and wild along this part of the lane.  There’s nothing friendly or cosy about how this looks, it’s cold, sharp….makes you want to hurry on back home to get somewhere warm.

 

misty shapes and rosehips

The only colour seems to be the smudge of golden river reeds and the speckled red of a handful of remaining hedgerow berries.  The rosehips themselves are now all wrinkled and squishy if you try to pick them, best left alone for any hungry birds or squirrels…..the lane is quite shaded and I’ve noticed before that the hips, haws and sloes along here come on a few weeks later than the ones on the marshes where everything seems that much more exposed to the weather.  On a day so fey lit and misty, the bright red of the hips is a most cheering sight.

There’s something about how wild roses grow, all higgledy piggledy that makes me think of the Briar Rose story by the brothers Grimm…..it grows so fast and tangley that it’s easy to imagine them growing, weaving themselves in amongst blackthorn bushes and spreading out around the castle where she’s sleeping…..in the stories it’s only ever the spikey thorns that are mentioned, but the part of me that likes to go foraging sometimes likes to think about how it would have looked other times of the year, all scarlet hips and deep purpley blue sloes….and other times desolate and haunted.

 

wild rose by the riverside

Maybe ten minutes or so around the corner by the river a small wild rose is sprouting the most impossibly bright green leaves, today they look like they’ve been dipped in sugar and crystallized.  When it’s warm and the sun is out, this walk by the river is wonderful, it’s a real sun spot here and I can happily sit down in the sunshine amongst the wild chamolie which covers the ground and almost drift right off.

new growth under a whisper of frost

The leaves are the most perfect shape, all the same and yet slightly different….a sparkled glittereing frosty top edges each one…in the midst of a cheek chillingly cold walk these little leaves are such a reminder that Spring is really only just around the corner….

Somewhere there’s a low and distant rumble, a train sounding more like thunder is hurtling along the track, impossible to see today in the fog….the river is a clear as glass and reflects all the grasses and reeds along the banks.

delicate new leaves almost hidden with frost

The frost covers the tangle of branches and looks more like tiny prickles along a bramble bush or some of the more ornamental roses…it forms the most delicate patterns and is so pretty to look at I can almost forget how cold it is.

I’ve mentioned it’s cold, and it is even though I’m all bundled up in my shawl (I managed to get it away from himself for more than a precious 5 minutes) and I’m also wearing fat Norwegian mittens, it’s my legs which really feel this morning’s bite, and the cold then spreads….but if I’d stayed cooped up indooors I’d have missed all this, even when Winter feels miserable, dreary, and never ending,  a lick of frost can totally transform my appreciation for it.

 

A foggy old frost and a hedgehog tree……

faint shapes through the fog

This past week has seen a bit of a shift in weather here, a couple of mornings we’ve woken up to quite a heavy frost, when the curtains are pulled back and I see the rooftops opposite sparkling white my heart begins to race before I realise with a sigh it’s just a frost rather than snow…..but at this time of year a good frost means I can at least traipse out over the marshes, the spongy boggy meadows are walkable when it’s so cold….the dead grasses and bronzey coloured remains of Summer are all transformed…..

River reeds become so golden hued, and where if there was just a slight breeze they’d all be moving, rustling in the air, a frost silences them, from time to time they quiver as a willow tit briefly perches before flying off…..

fallen and mossy

The marshes themselves are a stone’s throw away, not even 5 minutes walk away, and separating them from our house is a litttel lane…this used to be a real road before planning and bypasses and such mean it was all closed off to any through traffic, the busiest it seems now is the odd cyclist and dog walker.

One side of the lane is all cutlivated, clipped grass and the sound of “four” as it’s the local golf course…however the side I love is all tangled and wild, fallen trees coated with the brightest green moss, home to Jays and squirrels….dark shiny ivy drapes itself around old trees and frame beautiful views that speak of mystery and remind me of old folk tales and fairy stories…..

foggy view through the gate

Normally you’d be able to see right across here, a beautiful meadow which is a real treat in Summer, full of meadowsweet and tufted vetch, patches of fragile torn wisps of ragged robin and meadow buttercups waist high……today it’s hard to see much further than a few foggy feet out over the pasture…..I can hear someone calling their dog but even the sound of that is muffled, distant.  The fog acts as a buffer to what I can hear as well as what I’m seeing.

frosted cow parsley

The verges of the path are all quite sorry looking and most forlorn, the last memories of Summer loom through the mist, angelica and hogweed seem ghosts of their former selves when they’re topped with clouds of white blossoms…..most of the seeds in their crowns have been eaten by tiny tits that fly up and down the lane.

 

golden reeds

It’s been quite wet here this Winter and this is the highest I’ve seen the water in the ditch for a long time, normally it just looks muddy but there’s a good few feet of water in there….I’ve never tried clambering across here as I’m not sure how solid it all is and quite what is in the undergrowth, it looked proper bleak when I took the photos and it felt very strange to have such a limited view through the reeds.

 

misty and cold

Trees which look so beautiful when they are all leafy and green startle me as I look across at their bare tops and finger stretching branches….the small tree to the right side makes me think of Hans my Hedgehog, part man part snuffling hedgehog…..perhaps this is a tree version…all bent over with his spindly spikey back…..

 

tree monster through the fog

I nearly didn’t see this fellow…a distant motionless “treebeard” with his arms outstretched to balance himself like Frankenstein’s Monster…..it’s easy to let my imagination run away with me…..

 

view over the marshes

It’s so cold out, even all bundled up in my shawl and wearing fat Norwegian mittens…..it’s un-protected parts like my legs that really feel the cold air….the marshes are always lots colder, the frosts are always more intense and with such a fog the cold feels like a real presence…..it’s one of the foggiest mornings I’ve known while I’ve lived here.

It’s not a quiet walk by any means, the air is filled with the sound of birds chirping, and calling, the tits are all in the blackthorn hedges which are now nearly all in blossom, mostly it’s little blue tits and willow tits, they don’t stay long enough for me to take their picture and I try not to disturb them while they’re busy finding food, and there’s that squeeky tsk tsk tutting chirp of long tailed tits, tiny pink grey and black pom poms of feathery fluff with those long tails……elsewhere on the verge edges are robins and blackbirds, turning over frosty leaves and weeds looking for something wriggly and soft……somewhere in the distant I can hear a woodpecker…the sound always echos off and it’s even more impossible to work out where it is when it’s so foggy….a couple of Jays swoop over and call,  with that all the tits fly up together, huddled together as one.

 

 

finding gold on a Winter morning…

bracken by the golf course

As I mentioned yesterday, if I’ve had a walk out over the marsh I often turn down a little path that runs behind the back of a local golf course….a skinny copse of trees edges the green and for the most part it’s allowed to run wild….there’s been a lot of “conservation” work going on over the marshes and nearby Denby wood of late and personally I think it’s all been done a bit heavy handed, but trees and undergrowth seem to be allowed to just do their own thing here……….

There’s small pockets where frosty fingers haven’t reached and this tends to be full of birds, busy turning over leaves, rooting around for insects, grubs, anything wriggly to eat…..I’m ignored by most of them though one Robin flys over to where I’m watching them with his head cocked, this way, that way…. then when he realizes I don’t have anything with me he gives me a quick chirrup of song before he flies back to the other birds.  Everytime I try and take pictures of the wild birds here I end up not apppreciating what I’m actually seeing… (also my pictures come out looking dreadful, all blurred and too distanty*)

glowing bracken

But what I can share is how beautiful the braken was that morning….all golden and warm toned with the sunlight shining on it….all those delicate fronds , repeating away into nothing…..I love bracken, from when it first appears and is so bright and granny smith coloured, all curled in on itself and then slowly opening up to reveal the deepest Christmas tree green…..in part it brings back happy memories of playing on the common near where I grew up, running around half wild as the bracken would tickle my legs, making dens and head quarters as we played war games…..or deer watching with my mum and dad where we’d get up really early, drive out to pockets of woodland near to where we lived and then quietly walk and watch the deer, as the mist over the fields cleared the stag and does would head back into the woodland and the cover of trees……

golden amidst the frsot

So all those memories flood back back I walk through here…..I love the shape the bracken forms and that brown is so gleaming, all shades of precious metal, and almost amber coloured in parts….. (as soon as I got home a big tin of embroidery threads was emptied as I tried to capture those fragile frosty fronds in silk and stitches…..)

frozen gorse

There’s also gorse on the marshes, all prickles and mustardy blossoms…..it looked so breathtaking with it’s sparkling frosty shimmer….parts of the gorse were almost sagey green and teal in colour.

golden gorse blossom in the frost

When it’s Summer and the blossoms are warm I like to carefully pick some and eat them, all velvety and swtet, they almost melt away on my tongue….apparently you can make a nice wine from their blossoms but I’m thinking you’d need to pick quite a lot and to have hardy old finger tips.

In warmer months the gorse is so full of fat bees, softly buzzing and tumbling over the blossom, it’s quite eerie to see it so bare of insect life.

mustard coloured lichens

A patch of lichen catches my eye….it’s such a bright vomity mustard, a real contrast to the muted frosty colours everywhere else….it’s all mouldy and scabby looking but such a fierce strong colour.  I feel like I’ve found the pot of gold at the end of rainbow…….a golden treasure near the end of my walk.

teal coloured lichen

There’s actually lots of lichen growing in this section of the marsh, mostly it’s that glorious, heart uplifting gold that does you the world of good to see, but there are softer shades as well, this delicate teal, all trembly and barely there like gold leaf flakes that have just been finger pressed down….the copse and undergrowth are so quiet to explore when it’s cold….(no shouts of “four” from the golf course as I think it’s a bit early and too nippy) and is so rich in colour, shape and texture.  I never fail to go home all inspired with new ideas and colour combinations.

* if you’d like to see some truly beautiful photographs of wild birds then head over to Jeni Reid’s Instagram page…..I first saw her work on Wovember but love her photographs of birds in her garden

a frost kissed morning and the finest lace knitting…..

hawthorn tree on a frosty morning

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve had a few damp and most dreary of days, when it’s all wet out it’s a bit limiting on our walks as they mostly involve heading out over pastures and meadows and going over marsh land…..but when there’s been a good old frost like we woke up to Thursday then I can head out and trapse along the hedgerows, often feeling like I’ve been transported to another world or time……the distant rumbling of trains soon becomes part and parcel of any background noise……

If you were reading my blog last Summer you may remember some pictures I posted of lush meadows filled with wild flowers, looking like something from a 1970’s flake advert……this is the same meadow in the Winter.  In the middle there is a small cluster of hawthorn trees and when the cows are out they tend to gather here…perhaps they all get together to have a right gossip….a few last berries remain on the trees, all shriveled and frozen.

hawthorn against the morning sky

The witchy finger twists of the hawthorn totally fascinate me, it’s not something I take a lot of notice of once they are covered in new leaves and little red berries but come Autumn with blustery winds then they become one of my favourite trees……the gnarly little branches and twig tips are covered in lichens, tiny peeps of gold and mustard almost look too bright against the greys and muted colours of a Winter’s morning.

 

frozen brambles

Under the hawthron there are a few brambles, I don’t normally pick many fruit from this bush as they tend to be a bit small and it’s really prickly, but it looks beautiful this morning, those prickly stems are all covered in fine frosty crystals which sparkle in the sunlight…..in warmer months there are usually no end of little birds here, a banditry of tit-mice live close by and you can hear them squeekily chiruping…not today, they’ve headed off to any gardens that are close by in search of fat balls and treats*.

angelica and frost kissed sorrel

Around the edges of the meadow are the remains of last years sorrel and angelica….the shapes they form are really striking and and are inspirring me with a new series of botanical embroideries….

sorrel all frost kissed

That gorgeous deep rusty red all hidden under the frost…..I love the nubblieness of the sorrel seeds but they look even more beautiful with their dusting of white…..

frozen yarrow and moss

Crouching down low to the ground I can see small patches of moss and yarrow….it’s like a miniature world down here…the yarrow seems more like fluffy bracken fronds and are so clearly defined….

the finest lace knitting

Over the marshes and then along the back of the golf course….there’s a small copse which seems to offer a little shelter from the cold morning, and I’m aware of all the birds pecking about, poking under the dry leaves, and there’s a couple of squirrels which are scampering about, turning up littel piles of mulch….not sure if they’ve forgotten where they’ve burried their larder…they look quite indignant to see me and stop and watch as I walk past.

I nearly missed this cobweb, so carefully spun and looking like the finest spun piece of lace knitting…….

*not connected with my walk but I’ve just ordered some special peanut butter from Wiggly Wormers for the the birds in our garden…..they’re a brilliant company to buy from if you live in the uk as their bird food is grown here.  They often have really good offers and are the best place I think to buy live food for birds….if you’ve not tried live food before then it’s amazing, the birds love it and one little robin sat just inches away from my finger when I used to fill our feeder last year.

A fine and frosty morning…..

A frosty Thursday mornin'

While the past couple of days have been somewhat damp and dreary, when I woke early on Thursday the light seemed so odd that at first I thought we’d had snow (we get so little of it here in Norfolk that it still makes me get all excited and happy), in fact it was a heavy frost and it’d quite transformed the way everywhere outside looked…..

As soon as my boyfriend had gone off to work I bundled up and headed out to the shops but as it was such a beautiful morning I figured the marshes would be walkable so I took the scenic route…..

Within minutes my nose felt numb and it felt like it was starting to run, the skin around my eyes was all tingly because of the crisp air….I hadn’t realised it was quite this cold and was glad I’d really wrapped up warm (I ended up wearing what I now think of the cat blanket but which is in fact a nice shawl from a posh boutique that used to be in Norwich so I wasn’t going to win any style prizes for dress but hoped I’d stay warm)…..

 

just after nine in the morning over the marshes

Normally in the winter this way is really boggy, and the year before last it flooded, so all this was under water, it looked beautiful with swans and moor hens swimming very close by to where I’d sat that day…….it’s so open here and so very very beautiful….

The air is just filled with an orchestra of bird song, they’re all out in force, hungry for food…and I’m glad I made sure to fill all our feeders before I stepped out.

looking across to Keswick mill

For a good couple of weeks last year this way wasn’t really walk-able, you could get part way but then it was just too wet underfoot where the water has risen….. but today while it’s still cold and frozen underfoot I thought I’d risk it, see how it is and if it’s too wet I can always turn back.

I always love this view, Keswick MIll is just in the distance.  It looks so bleak here in the colder months but when there’s been a frost it looks so otherworldly, all fey and mystery.

The light is really grey and eeie and I was hoping hoping hoping with fingers crossed inside my mitten that it would snow later on (it didn’t).

frosty view over the marshes

The only other sound apart from the bird song is the rumble of the trains as they hurtle along in the distance….

I bought a pair of boots by Sorel some years ago and they are brilliant for wearing when the weather isn’t great, they keep my feet warm and dry, they also lace on which means if I step in a wet muddy bit they don’t slip off like wellies….

the morning starts to wake

It looks so different here in the Summer, pastures all full of colourful wild flowers, blue catseye speedwell, and stitchwort which looks like tiny white stars, wild chamomile…tiny tufts of ragged robin.

marsh grass and frozen puddles

I love the look of the marsh grass when it’s frosty, the spikey clumps look just like they do on maps to show that land is marshy……it’s such the best map illustration/marker. Sometimes when I’m here I half expect to see a Marshwiggle all set up with his tent……

But the marsh grass also hides a secret, it tends to grow up where it’s particularly boggy, and while it’s fine to walk across here in the summer when it’s been good and dry, when it’s wet or wintery you’re more like to sink into the mud ….

frozen puddles

A little further in and you get an idea of how treacherous this area of the marshes can be, I think the frost helps to pin point the really wet bits so they are easier to avoid….

the cow tracks to the gate are all frozen over

The cows were quite late off the marshes this year and where they’ve kicked up and trodden is still very noticeable….the tracks are all muddy and that’s frozen across good and proper. This always makes me think of big pieces of bark, if you’ve ever seen old Yew trees their bark looks just like this, all layers and soft curved edges…..

Ooh but it was cold though, even with fat mittens from Norway on and wrapped up in “the cat blanket” I began to right feel the pip…..it’s hard to walk fast across here as the ground is boggy underneath the frost so you have to step carefully…..once I’d crossed the meadow though I was able to walk a bit faster through the copse behind the golf course, and by the time I got to the shops I was all rosy cheeked and pink nosed…..

Gnarled and knobbly…..and an enchanted tangle….

gnarled and knobbled

Whenever I head out and go for a walk over the marshes I’m always bound to see a couple of familiar faces, generally it’s dog walkers who though I don’t know their names, more often than not I’ve learnt the name of their dogs…or other wild fruit pickers and we’ll stand and jaw, compare notes on how well the blackberries are doing, “still need another week don’t they”…take delight in how sweet the mirabelles are this year and share where the best trees are for sloes are…..but as familiar to me now as those other marshy meanders is this beautiful old and twisted tree which grows along the side of the river bank.

gnarly old tree all moss and ivy vine covered

I just love it….I’m a terrible toucher, I have to poke things, stroke things, curious to see how things feel…(this explains why I’ve gotten scratched in the past by some grumpy cats that were just quietly minding their business before I came along and tried to fuss them)….this tree is wonderful, all coarse feeling bark that’s so full of lumpy bumpy bits and edges that are smoothed where the bark has worn away……

It’s tucked away slightly in a bit of an undergrowth, surrounded by bad tempered blackthorn bushes which keep their sloes on the highest branches….in the winter it’s very wet and muddy underfoot and a couple of times when we came this way in the Winter the river was too high, the water had spilt over and was laying under the trees….eerie and still reflections cast in the shallows, grey and dismal in the cold Winter’s light, with flickering shimmers of frost around the edges….

When the cows are on this side of the pasture we’ll occasionally find the path blocked and have to walk round as they don’t budge for anyone….but most of the time it’s lovely to walk through, bending under low branches and trying not to get caught up on wild looking hedges with fierce looking thorns.

texture and colour on a gnarly old tree

It’s all wrapped with ivy, huge vines entwined around the trunk and up across through the branches overhead, little pockets are filled with the softest fluffy green moss.  In the past I’ve seen various birds hopping about a little bit above my head and I guess the tree must be home to 101 different insects that keep the birds well fed.  Last year I saw what I’m pretty sure was a little nut hatch hopping up and down the tree busily pecking away, pulling back bits of cobweb and lifting up moss to see what was hiding underneath….

texture upon texture

I love how twisty and rooty the tree is, all wild and tangled……gnarly and knobbled and I can’t help thinking of my dad’s hands, he was a gardener and had spent his whole life working out of doors so he had what I always think of as “man hands”…worn and leathery, sometimes cracked and calloused, strong and capable, but capable of being unbelievably gentle…..and hand knitted jumpers, all covered in intricate dancing cables…..I’m not a very good knitter, it takes me forever to knit anything beyond a simple garter stitch and then I have to have quiet or I lose my place..but oh if I could knit properly I’d love to knit cables, delicate twists that would run up my legs on the side of socks like vetchling and sweetpea tendrils, or sturdier vines that would wrap around my sleeves and stomach and breast like an enchanted tangle of bramble or ivy……