Friday, 20 July 2018

Heatwave Part 2 - Wildflower Meadows by the Sea

It was over a year since I had been to the Wildflower Meadows. My last visit was on New Year’s Day 2016, when the sea wind caused my eyes to water and the flowers were waiting for the warmer weather before they put in an appearance.

As the temperature soared, I drove along the narrow winding country lanes and turned right at the staggered crossroad heading towards the sea. 

I was disappointed to see the lovely old rose that a few years ago had clambered through the hedgerow marking this turning had gone. 

Happily on my last visit, even though it was the depths of winter, I had taken a cutting of this rose, which amazingly rooted successfully, and now this summer is producing the same beautiful double pink blooms outside my side door at home.

In spite of the heat, and the fact that this area is close to where the drama Game of Thrones is set, visitors were scarce.  Savouring the feel of the hot sun on my skin, I walked alone amongst the wildflowers in the lush meadows 

with rocky foreshores, 

towards the sandy bays, hidden below crumbling sandstone cliffs - home to hordes of sand-martins that flit ceaselessly in and out of the little holes on the sandy cliff face.

watched the sand-martins swoop and circle close to the cliffs, while high up overhead the gulls soared effortlessly on the air currents above the coastline.

Coastal daisies grew in clumps

 amongst the rocks and tall sea grasses at the edge of the powdery sand.

Red and white Valerian grew wild at the top of an old stone wall above the little beach, 

framing the sea and sky beautifully.

Before returning home, I drove a short way further around the coast, past a little beach at the side of the road, 

to where another small bay provides feeding grounds in the sandy mud flats to seabirds

such as Curlews, Sandpipers and Gulls, 

and during the winter is a resting point for the Brent Geese.

As the afternoon drew to a close, I reluctantly left the coast, mindful of the hosepipe ban and the lengthy watering regime awaiting me in the garden and allotment, where the poor plants wilted and turned brown in the scorched dry earth.

The sea air and Co Down countryside had inspired me though 

and I was brimming with ideas for another coastal themed embroidery. 
(I will keep you posted…)


Thursday, 12 July 2018

Heatwave - Sand in My Shoes

"May you always have a Shell in your Pocket and Sand in your Shoes"

Following that destructive storm Hector, summer finally arrived – with an intensity we had not experienced for nearly a quarter of a century. The earth cracked and baked in the long hot days and whilst the forecast did not predict rain for weeks, a hosepipe ban was introduced. Keeping the garden and allotment watered was a time consuming process with only watering cans permitted.
As the temperature soared and city pavements sizzled in the scorching sun, turning my back upon the agonies of rush hour traffic, I succumbed to the allure of coastal breezes and found myself driving southwards

towards the Bay where in the distance Mountains sweep down to the sea and ancient dunes lead down to a wide sandy beach.

The sun beat down but with the roof of the car open, I felt cooled by the wind that ruffled my hair- now lightened naturally by the sun, (the sun-bleached look that years ago Laura and I would have tried to achieve through squeezing Lemon Juice on to our hair).
It was a while since I had driven this route and as I drove through the familiar scenery of the gentle rolling County Down countryside, the fields and hedges were vibrant against the bright blue of the sky.
Mount Panther appeared on the right – the decaying old mansion still standing after all these years amongst the tall trees on top of the hill. 

At the crest of a hill, the road dropped away 

and I caught sight of Dundrum Bay below on the left.

Leaving the car, (my white plimsolls already dusty with the fine sand)

 I set off on the boardwalk that led through the heath, 

wandering carefree through the sand dunes towards the beach. 

In front of me, on the horizon, the mountains were bathed in sunlight. 

I heard the chirp of grasshoppers and felt the warm, barely there breeze whisper against my skin.

The path wound through the dunes; gorse, heather, wildflowers 

and twisted windblown trees either side. Butterflies fluttered through the air, while larks soared overhead.

Leaving the path,  

I climbed up high into the dune. 

Reaching the top,

the tide was in

 and I saw the sea shimmering below me. 

I sat listening to the larks and grasshoppers, 

looking down at the sandy beach where the faint noise of children laughing and calling to each other floated upwards on the faint breeze. A dog barked excitedly as he darted in and out amongst the waves. 

The sea sparkled like diamonds as the hot sun glinted on the crest of far out rippling waves that curled rhythmically towards the beach. Birds circled and swirled around above the beach, at eye level with me, 

before they swooped steeply downwards to the waters edge.

After wending my way down towards the beach, where the tide had now turned,

I walked barefoot along towards the entrance to Dundrum Bay. 

The soft white sand burnt the soles of my feet, and the seawater, which although warmed by the sun, felt delightfully cooling as waves lapped at my ankles.

To my joy, the beach was surprisingly empty – most people choosing to congregate at the entrance where the boardwalk ends. 

However as the afternoon sun grew hotter, more visitors arrived and I decided to travel back around the coast to another of my favourite places, 

where wildflowers grow in lush meadows with rocky foreshores...

(to be continued in Part 2)


Saturday, 16 June 2018

... Always The Garden

"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden."

The weather over the past few weeks has been glorious. Sunshine and blue skies have meant that I have spent every possible moment either in the garden or at the allotment. Housework has been minimal and stitching put to one side.

A trip to the coast was appealing, but wasting time driving and sitting in traffic was not, especially when the garden looked so beautiful.

After nursing my plants through the hard winter, they were now making up for lost time and bursting forth with blooms. 

The roses have been superb, the best they have ever been as they flowered prolifically in the hot sunshine.

Gertrude Jekyll, 

Boule de Neige

Mdm Alfred Carriere


Souvenir de la Malmaison to name but a few.

Clematis Guernsey Cream was late to flower this year, but worth the wait.

In the "white" border, 

spires of lupins,


and delphiniums tower over lychnis and a white peony, 

below the dovecote and the aptly named Cephalaria Gigantea.

Located in the top corner of the garden, is a little bird feeder with a half coconut to which flock families of tits, sparrows and blackbirds that nest in the hedge. Even as I sat nearby, I would hear a rustle in the hedge and high pitched cheeps as the baby birds emerged to feed. 

Once one of the dreaded magpies uttered its raucous cackles and attempted to bully it's way on to the feeder, but a determined and courageous dove flew at it and successfully drove it away.

A young blackbird frequents the garden and after watching from the wires above, flew down and squawked loudly and audaciously from the hedge, 

(as if to goad Evie as she lay basking peacefully in the sunshine)

before feeding voraciously upon the coconut.

A new edition to the pond in the front garden is "The Frog". 

Larger than Freddie Frog who once frequented the trough in the back garden, "The Frog" looks more like a He-Man type of Frog, scaling the vertical precipitous walls of the pond.

(At the allotment another little frog lives under the creeping thyme and can be seen occasionally as I unwittingly disturb him during his ventures out and about. I am in constant fear of him being stood upon and am very tempted to erect "Beware of the Frog" signs).

Alas, the Dark Forces are never far away, watching and waiting to make life difficult. This time it was in the form of Storm Hateful Hector that blew up from nowhere on Wednesday, with winds that wreaked havoc and destruction - decimating the garden, heartlessly breaking down the leaf laden trees and Cephalaria and brutally decapitating the roses. 

I confess that I was ever so slightly upset, and have not yet been able to summons up the energy for the clean-up operation. Turning my back for the moment upon the garden I have resumed my stitching

and taken pleasure from the simple sprig of flowers 

 presented to me by the lovely Professor from his allotment.