In 1906 Edith Holden started a Diary, now known as ‘The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady’. In it, she observed Natures cycle through the months of the year, writing simply about the weather, the birds, the flowers and the natural world around her. All the pages are beautifully ornamented with her original artwork and favourite poems. In this Blog, I’m going to try to emulate her Diary in a modern way. For a start, this is a blog on a computer, not pen and ink lovingly written on paper! However, I hope that the end result will have some similarities, in that I want to capture day by day, month by month the steady rhythm of Nature through the year. For although our 21st century lives are hectic, chaotic, noisy and deafened by electronics, the beat of the natural world, which is the backdrop to all our lives whether we notice it or not, remains ever the same. So take a sedate, gentle and steady-paced journey with me through the next year, observing the natural world. Our way of life may have changed almost beyond recognition since 1906, but nature is doing what it always has done, the cycle of nature remains constant and reassuringly predictable. In that respect, nothing has changed. ‘ No Winter lasts forever; no Spring skips its turn.’ (Hal Borland)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

January 21st.

There was a cold mist rising along the valley this morning, but it's been such a mild Winter so far, that the shrubbery along the lanes is still green, the banks covered in stitchwort leaves, celandine already, vetch and campion still flowering and the first snowdrops are flowering amongst the leaf litter on the woodland floor. This morning too, three skylarks were up in the sky singing on Red Hill-their Summer nesting grounds, can't remember have ever seeing them there so early in the year before, although it's lovely to hear skylarks any time of year. In contrast, the redwings and fieldfares seem to have disappeared at the moment, it's probably too warm for them so perhaps they've gone further north and will return if things turn colder. Still lots of flood water lying in the meadows and these are full of seagulls, and a large flock of lapwings too have flown in for a visit.

The Wild Rose and the Snowdrop-George Meredith ( lines from.)
The Snowdrop is the prophet of the flowers;
It lives and dies upon its bed of snows;
And like a thought of spring it comes and goes,
Hanging its head beside our leafless bowers.
The sun’s betrothing kiss it never knows,
Nor all the glowing joy of golden showers;
But ever in a placid, pure repose,
More like a spirit with its look serene,
Droops its pale cheek veined thro’ with infant green.

Queen of her sisters is the sweet Wild Rose,
Sprung from the earnest sun and ripe young June;
The year’s own darling and the Summer’s Queen!
Lustrous as the new-throned crescent moon.
Much of that early prophet look she shows,
Mixed with her fair espoused blush which glows,
As if the ethereal fairy blood were seen;
Like a soft evening over sunset snows,
Half twilight violet shade, half crimson sheen.

Twin-born are both in beauteousness, most fair
In all that glads the eye and charms the air;
In all that wakes emotions in the mind
And sows sweet sympathies for human kind.
Twin-born, albeit their seasons are apart,
They bloom together in the thoughtful heart;
Fair symbols of the marvels of our state,
Mute speakers of the oracles of fate!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

January 9th.

The water meadows in the Valley are living up to their description, the water subsided a little over the past few days but with heavy rain over night the plains are flooded deeply again.
A lovely, clear sunny day today though which is a welcome break from the perennial grey and wet. The ravens and buzzards were enjoying the clear conditions, croaking and mewing above the woods. The small songbirds too, robins and dunnocks were in full voice in the hedgerows. It's so mild at the moment that I've seen lots of squirrels about, there hasn't been any hibernation weather yet.

The Flood-John Clare.
On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood
I've seen the winter floods their gambols play
Through each old arch that trembled while I stood
Bent o'er its wall to watch the dashing spray
As their old stations would be washed away
Crash came the ice against the jambs and then
A shudder jarred the arches - yet once more
It breasted raving waves and stood agen
To wait the shock as stubborn as before
 - White foam brown crested with the russet soil
As washed from new plough lands would dart beneath
Then round and round a thousand eddies boil
On tother side - then pause as if for breath
One minute - and engulphed - like life in death

Whose wrecky stains dart on the floods away
More swift than shadows in a stormy day
Straws trail and turn and steady - all in vain
The engulfing arches shoot them quickly through
The feather dances flutters and again
Darts through the deepest dangers still afloat
Seeming as faireys whisked it from the view
And danced it o'er the waves as pleasures boat
Light hearted as a thought in May -
Trays - uptorn bushes - fence demolished rails
Loaded with weeds in sluggish motions stray
Like water monsters lost each winds and trails
Till near the arches - then as in affright
It plunges - reels - and shudders out of sight

Waves trough - rebound - and fury boil again
Like plunging monsters rising underneath
Who at the top curl up a shaggy main
A moment catching at a surer breath
Then plunging headlong down and down - and on
Each following boil the shadow of the last
And other monsters rise when those are gone
Crest their fringed waves - plunge onward and are past
- The chill air comes around me ocean blea
From bank to bank the waterstrife is spread
Strange birds like snow spots o'er the huzzing sea
Hang where the wild duck hurried past and fled
On roars the flood - all restless to be free

Like trouble wandering to eternity.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

January 3rd and 4th.

Travelled down through a very stormy West Country to the Cornish Coast. Lots of flooded ground on the way, especially the Somerset Levels. The whole West coast, from  Scotland and Northern England down through Wales and into Devon and Cornwall is being battered by fierce Winter storms and combined with the high Spring tide is creating storm surges that are flooding coastal areas and the flat lands around. The Usk valley has escaped the worst fortunately, although the flood plains around the brooks and river are inundated with water, the surrounding villages have had little damage.

Stayed in Falmouth, which being on the east side of the peninsula is offering a calm haven for sea animals and boats alike. The bay off Gyllyngvase beach was full of sea birds- huge rafts of Shags, several hundred of them, resting in the calmer waters joined by razor bills, little auks and Great Northern Divers.
Also walked along the banks of the Helford estuary which had Egrets, Herons, Red-shanks and Green-shanks busily feeding in the mud, and some Shell ducks who were sifting through the mud with their large flat beaks.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

1st January.

January gets its name from the Roman God 'Janus'. The earliest Roman calendars had only ten months, with no January or February, and the New Year started on March 1st. In 153 BC the Roman senate changed the calendar and added January and February, naming the first month after the ' the spirit of the opening'- Janus, a two headed god who looked both backwards and forwards. The Anglo-Saxons called this time 'Wolf- Monath' as it was common for wolves to come in to the villages searching for food.

Traditional days in January.
1st- New Years Day.
6th- Epiphany or twelfth day.
7th- St Distaffs day.
25th- Burns night.

Folk-sayings about January.
 'A wet January, a wet Spring'.

'Fog in January brings a wet Spring'.

'The blackest month of all the year,
 is the month of Janiveer.

High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts bending- Emily Bronte.

High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man's spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending 
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.