About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
My fourth poetry collection, The Shadow Factory, was published in 2019 by Indigo Dreams. I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy. https://theleapingword.com

Monday, 3 May 2021

Ashton Court before the storm

There's a storm a-coming, they said, so we got up early and went to Ashton Court to walk the dog. First stop, visiting some old familiars now coming into leaf ... 

... but before that, whoop whoop, green-winged orchids everywhere!

I spent a bit of time with the Domesday Oak, which is looking rather more cheerful than the last time I had a proper look at it some five years ago, when it was newly fallen apart despite the best efforts of the council's specialist tree officers. It's literally not half the tree it was, though. 

And then it was into Summerhouse Plantation, which is one of our favourite places to walk, especially on days that are threatening to be stormy, and very lovely it is right now too, what with the bluebells and wild garlic and all. 

Down near the bottom of the wood, we paused to pay our respects to the Fattest Oak ... 

... before skirting the back of the mansion which looked quite busy and heading back up through the woods, a much easier prospect than when the slopes are deep in winter mud. 

Even so, we were glad to sit for a bit on a fallen log to catch our breath, while Cwtch happily ran up and down the path about eight times to our one. 

There was a bit of tree art going on the wood. I hadn't spotted the addition to this beech from last year before today, though I don't think Jeremy Corbyn would really appreciate his name being carved into the bark. Still it could have been worse, it could have been Boris Johnson.

Some lovers had embarked (ouch) on a collaborative piece with another beech, utilising some natural heart shapes in the declaration of their love ... 

... but I have to say, I like the trees' own art best. Heart balloons, Banksy? Our city's beeches got there first. 

Back out in the open, the red deer were up near the deer park fence for once, so I left Cwtch at a distance with the Northerner and went to see them. 

Hello down there!

One last visit to one last massive oak in very bronze leaf and we were home hours before the rain and wind set in, here in Bristol at least, with a pleasingly tired pup. 

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Early spring up the meadow

It's a month since I last posted a blog about the meadow and the wood and the common and the golf course and the lane, and six weeks since I posted a seasonal round-up. We're still visiting our local place several times a week. It's been a saving grace through this pandemic, and now I've extra reason to be grateful, as I plan to write a pamphlet's worth of poems for my MA, exploring attachment to place. So I'm glad of this blog, which acts as a convenient scrapbook of the last year and a month. 

Over the last six weeks, winter has departed and spring has established a foothold, with blossom and flowers blooming fearlessly (albeit a little later than last year). 

Dog violets


Neither flowers or blossom but always interesting mares' tails

Pussy willow

Lady's smock


cowslips by the  pond


apple blossom

dead nettle with a carder bumble bee

first lovely hawthorn

hawthorn and bluebells, my favourite combination

The rookery is back in action, with lots of nest building activity going on in late March and eary April. There seem to be at least some birds in residence most of the day, and it's pretty noisy, so I guess hatching is underway.

The first chiffchaff made itself heard on 21st March, officially the first day of spring so very fitting and hugely welcome after the winter we've had.

The woodpeckers have also been much in evidence, though they've stopped finding everything quite so hilarious since they too have had eggs to sit on. Here's one video-bombing me and Cwtch. 

If that was a bit too fast for you, here's a freeze frame.

Before the golfers came back, I climbed down the steep but no longer icy slope into the moat around the northern end of the course and visited the old ash tree there. 

I still think it looks better from the top, though.

Meanwhile, the hollowing oak in the meadow is leafing very nicely ... 

... and the sun is heading north along the rim of Welsh hills towards its midsummer zenith. There have been some impressive sunsets ... 

... not least this one, which is worthy of Rothko, and happened a mere quarter of an hour after the previous photo.

We've seen foxes and rabbits out and about, and Cwtch came across the remains of a hedgehog yesterday, which suggests there might be badgers around too. 

The most exciting bit of wildlife spottery was a couple of weeks ago, when the Northerner advanced into a less frequented part of the Small Dark Wood of the Mind, as we think of it. 

Cwtch followed him, and suddenly, in the open space where I was waiting, I saw what I thought at first was a large greyhound leaping along the boundary, but which was actually a roe deer. (No photos, though, as I was too surprised and it was too quick.) 

We went back a day later but all we found was a ring of bark stripped from a young whitethorn and a scraped hollow in the ground. Nevertheless, that part of the wood is now known as the Grove of the Silver Chair, or, as Dru would have it, Llwyn Gadair Arian. 

Mostly, though, Cwtch likes chasing jackdaws foraging in the field.

Lastly, we've also been down to Charlton Common, which is still under threat of being built on, and which is beautiful in its scrubby, tussocky wildness. 

And that's about it. If you've got this far, thank you for your indulgence.