bunch of spring flowers

Diary of an Essex week

The Essex House at Wrabness

Sister has rented the Grayson Perry designed House for Essex for weekend and invited selected persons to share experience. Delighted to be one of said selected persons and sally forth to wilds of Wrabness. Amazed and entranced by house. Ponder ways of introducing infinity mirror corridor and moped chandelier into own house.

House party sets forth on walk to Mistley for lunch. Soon realise that map dismissed as unnecessary would be quite useful and inadvertently blueblaze the Essex Way. After few miles, decided not to follow leading sisters and cousins through marshy ground but lead renegade group along byway. Slightly surprised later to discover that sisters hadn’t immediately noticed their slightly ancient mother was no longer following. Less surprised when passing zorbing activity that mother expresses interest in having a go. Noted for future days out. Finally reach destination, meet others who had to retrace steps and are now behind us, have delicious lunch and catch train back.

Later in weekend, discover others have spent Saturday night ramming farm gates and thieving. Consult with neighbouring farmers and discover we were not sole targets. Much swearing and denouncing of certain sort of person. Considerable time spent by all over next few days dealing with consequences and building up further defences.

Relieved that expiring central heating boiler in house is replaced as enormous new red monster burner finally fired up. Downside – can hear money burning as each wood pellet pings into burner. Upside – house is warm. Charming young man explains thermostat programmer. Tells me he has set temperature low and I should turn up thermostat over coming days until comfortable ambient temperature reached. Spend next few days turning thermostat down and still hit by bank of warm air when opening door to sitting room. More fine tuning to do.

spring flowers lino print

Join Ruth on tester printmaking course. Told to arrive with nothing more than open mind. And, if time, please bring cake. Spend two days day making artful displays with flowers, drawing, mixing colours and printing. End course enthused and brimming with ideas for future printmaking. Make Steller story of experience. Ruth very critical of efforts and redoes story.

Upset today when Bill finds one of the guinea fowl has been run over and left dead on farm chase. Not overly surprised as guinea fowl have tendency to run towards and not away from oncoming vehicles but would prefer the driver had stopped or swerved to avoid it. Rather wish it had been the jay that wakes us every morning as it bashes its beak on windows around the house. Resolve to have stiff words about road safety with remaining guinea fowl when shutting them up tonight.

 

 

You can read the Steller story here.

View from Monarch's Way

An Escape

During our walks along long distance paths in England, we’ve often merged with or crossed The Monarch’s Way and eventually, we decided to discover more about this path, which appeared in so many places.

I’m sure that at some time in my schooldays I studied the Civil War and the flight of Charles II from England, but I regret that I am woefully ignorant of the period. Following a little research (if ploughing through a rather tedious Georgette Heyer novel counts as research), I now know that after a heavy defeat at The Battle of Worcester 1651 and with a price on his head, Charles II spent six weeks hotly pursued by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces as he tried to escape to France. His journey was circuitous as he first headed north, then doubled back down to the south coast and finally across the downs to Shoreham and The Monarch’s Way is a 615 mile footpath based on this escape.

 

Monarch's Way Worcester canal

We thought this walk would keep us busy for a while, so made a start earlier this month. We walked from Old Powick Bridge, just south of Worcester, in glorious April sunshine along the banks of the Rivers Teme and Severn into the hustle and bustle of the city and then headed northwards along the towpath of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which was busy with boats, fishermen, cyclists and dog walkers. We watched the fisherman, sat firmly on their stools with their copious paraphernalia spread within arms’ reach, as they picked bait from their varied selection and then used a catapult to send it flying to the other side of the canal where their line dipped into the water. I was hoping they might mistake their packed lunch for bait and catapult a sandwich across the water or pop a maggot in their mouth but it didn’t happen. Fishing remains a great mystery to me. Leaving that canal and skirting a rather unlovely industrial area we returned to the countryside and finally walked along the towpath of the sleepy Droitwich canal into Droitwich Spa.

Westwood House, Droitwich Spa from The Monarch's Way

The following day we headed out across the fields, past the impressive Westwood House, around numerous fishing lakes, had a chat with a man about ducks as we tried to find our way out of a nature reserve, followed the footpath from the road through a gate in the wall into a private garden where it ran for about ten metres and then emerged back onto the road (which was very strange), across a point-to-point course where they were putting up the rails for the forthcoming races, past a beautifully kept community orchard and into the village of Chaddesley Corbett. For once, our timing was perfect as we arrived bang on lunch time and the pub was open; normally we arrive too early, too late or the pub is shut. After a swift lunch (we were the only customers) we headed off through more green countryside, up and along a ridge with views across Worcestershire and to the West Midlands and finally into Hagley. An enjoyable start to The Monarch’s Way.

Next time we walk the path, we have a dilemma. The first two days were ideal for us – walking through villages and beautiful countryside, exploring a small city and both days there was a railway station conveniently close to the start and finish. The next few sections of the trail are less appealing as they include miles of urban pavement walking, a long stretch of rural road walking and an area with no regular public transport. We are walking for pleasure, not through a desire to retrace the royal escape route nor to tick off a completed long distance trail, so I think we will probably skip a chunk of the trail. It feels a little like cheating but I can’t see the point of walking where I don’t want to be when there are so many places that I do want to explore.

Would you grit your teeth and do the whole thing properly or would you ignore the official trail and walk your own shortened route?

On The Farm in April 2017

It’s a beautiful spring day so come with me on a quick walk around part of the farm.

sun sparkling on water

Past the pond where the sun catches the ripples made by the wind.

ephemeral art

Inspired by The Textile Ranger’s writing about Impermanent Art, I made my own ephemeral art pieces by tying together daffodils and attaching them to trees. Oh, how funny I thought I was putting a post on Instagram of a holly bush that appeared to have bright yellow flowers on April 1st. Looking at my ‘installations’ today, they look rather more like a roadside accident shrine. This old tree has a large gash down one side with a rabbit burrow in the base.

primroses growing on the the banks of a ditch

Let’s carry on through the yard, down the track and jump into the bottom of the ditch so we can see the primroses are flowering on the banks.

 

paigles

Further down the track, the paigles (or cowslips) are just coming into flower. Unlike the primroses, the paigles grow alongside the track.

blackthorn blossom

Around the farm, the field boundary hedges are filled with a froth of white blackthorn blossom, which we hope will develop into sloes this autumn. I’m not sure how we’re going to reach the sloes so high up in this hedge around Gardeners Field.

spring growth on Christmas trees

Dropping in at the Christmas Tree plantation we can see the new growth on the Norway Spruce trees. I’ve read that these spruce tips can be eaten in a multitude of ways but have never been sufficiently tempted to try any of the recipes. One year I made Christmas Tree Gin that smelt just like pine scented disinfectant, which was rather off-putting. We still have half a bottle left, which doesn’t appear to be improving with age.

Bees and honeycomb in fallen branch

Before we head home, there’s just time to check the bees in the fallen tree branch.  There have been some fairly cold and miserable days since it fell and as the bees were very exposed, we were worried they might perish but I’m pleased to report that there are still lots of live bees in situ. This is the top layer of the honeycomb, which you can see is open to the elements. Underneath this top layer are more bees but I wasn’t going to get any closer to see if I could get a photo.

Another beautiful spring day on the farm in Essex.