Sunday, 1 February 2009

A Walk to the Snowdrops . . .

It's been perishing cold here today with a bitter wind. A lazy wind, the old folks used to say (and I still do) - it's too lazy to go round you so it goes right through you instead. My friend Deb came over for a chat and a plum muffin, and we walked up to the snowdrops on a neighbour's land up the valley. We were a week early for the best display, as they were only just starting to open out into flower, but it is still a magic spot, for all that. I showed Deb the remains of Ffosgrech, where the Lewis family lived in the 1881 census, and I even took a photo of the half a brick which is all that remains, apart from the rock-cut back wall of the cottage. They had wonderful views from up there but would have felt today's wind as it wuthered about the place with icy fingers.

The gorse was in bloom, and I wondered if they made Gorse Wine with it as I have in the past or whether it was just crushed as animal fodder, which is more likely.

On the East side of the country it is snowing and "they" threaten snow over much of the country, though it may just fall short of us (shame!)

The trackway upwards.

The purpose of the walk - drifts of snowdrops.

This fabulous old tree, which had incorporated a neighbouring one into its embrace.

And another, where a tree had been completely surrounded.

Half a brick. All that's left of Ffosgrech.

The rock-cut platform and navelwort now growing where the back of the house would have been.
The view along our valley. You can see the valley bottom is like a big sponge - waterlogged soil and very poor grazing and alder-carr woodland.

I loved this ancient fallen oak, striated with emerald moss so that it looked like corduroy.

At the Car Boot Sale this morning I spotted my old friend C Henry Warren in a collection of books on someone's stall and for 50p, "England is a Village" was mine. Written at the outbreak of war, he evokes country living with the most evocative descriptions. It had snowed then, and I will share with you a page or so . . . The author is speaking of the regular early morning passers-by, recognisable by their greetings, or their way of walking - the blacksmith shuffled in his heavy boots, as yet unlaced as he ambles to the forge, kettle in hand. But after snow . . .

"But now it is all quite different. No Tom or Arthur goes pedalling past, called from bed each morning for a pittance on some far-off farm. And when Sam does appear, the day is already so far advanced that nobody could rely on such a belated cock-crow. In that cold silence when the snow throws its first white light on to the ceiling, it is almost as if the end of the world had happened overnight and, unaccountably, we were the only souls left alive in a blank and muffled world. at last, however, there are voices - voices unnaturally clear, and as it were suspended, because unaccompanied by the sound of passing feet, in a vacuum. And then, once we are up, we see what all the mystery is about. There is nothing the snow has not clung to and changed past all knowing. Roof and tree, road and garden, all have been fashioned anew in the night by a hand of miraculous cunning and to the whim of a mind that loves not colour. And down by Mark Thurston's cottage, under the knot of elms we had thought so friendly and so familiar, half a dozen men have suddenly appeared from nowhere with a couple of horses and the village snow-plough. Monkish in their sacks, which they wear over their heads, the two corners tucked one into the other, the men handle the cumbersome implement that has lain on the grass by the roadside all the year, its massive shares decorated with cowslips in the spring and hidden under a foam of kexes in summer. While some of them attend to the harnessing of the horses, others stand by, flinging their arms about like flails, in an attempt to stir some sort of warmth in their shivering bodies. . . . For awhile yet the village maintains its empty silence. Double-thatched now, with straw and snow, the cottage roofs project their picturesque angles against the deadened sky. Over Goose End the ruined windmill flaunts its broken sails, set at Miller's Pride until they fall and ill able to support the weight of snow lodged on their upper edges. Gardens there are none, and every bush is a frozen fountain. Our meagre river, running through the centre of the village, is indistinguishable now from the Green that rims its banks. At other times, it alternates swiftly from a convenient mirror (beloved of photographers) for the reflection of the surrounding cottages to a muddy stench that causes the passers-by to pinch their noses in disgust; but to-day both mirror and stench are sealed in ice. Buried somewhere beneath its white, unruffled surface are the inviting slides that traverse it from end to end - slides where the children of the village have enjoyed themselves as never since they were born and where even the farm-hands, returning from the fields in the early dusk, could not resist the temptation to drop their bicycles against the bridge and take a flying turn or two before they went home to tea. Later on . no doubt, somebody will brush the snow away, or at least enough of it to uncover the precious slides. But it will be beyond their power to restore the simple sport to the pitch of ecstasy it engendered all last week and the best part of the week before. For then there was a moon. And whilst the frost dropped silver stars on to the roofs and spun from every branch and twig a hoary lace that only the morning would discover, lads and girls, and children who should long ago have been abed, sped over the glassy river, wings at their heels, and filled the blacked-out village with their laughing voices."

C. Henry Warren: "England is a Village", publ. 1941 by Eyre and Spottiswood.

I also splashed out 20 pence on a book about ghosties which looks interesting reading, and £3 on a lovely old pot-bellied earthenware jar. My husband will have to make me a wooden lid for it, but then it can house the mixed fruit in the kitchen.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and fantastic photos - love those old trees and hedgebanks (are they hedgebanks?). Thanks so much for sharing. Bitter cold wind here too but just a light dusting of snow overnight. Ann.

Goosey said...

Nice pictures, as usual. Your book and pot in the car boot finds are good, I love old books. Thats a good comment about the lazy wind, I've never heard it before!

Arlene Grimm said...

Love the snowdrops....we usually have few crocuses blooming by now but we have had such a cold winter this yr.

Morning's Minion said...

The Warren essay is just the type of writing I enjoy--those look like woodcuts for the illustrations [?] I'm envious of a winter that can provide snowdrops in February along with the wind and the cold.
The "ghosties"--err--I'm afraid if I read about them I'd surely see them.

Anonymous said...

Loved your pic's and excerts from the old book.. that guy wrote in a way to make you feel like your were there seeing it all.
Nothing is blooming here yet.. still snow covered and very cold.

Tea with Willow said...

I love the passage from the book you quoted - would love to get hold of a copy, I think I might have a browse around my local second-hand book shop!

Willow x

Rowan said...

Snowdrops out already - how wonderful. Love your earthenware jar and as for C Henry Warren - well I'm sure you can guess that I've had this book for yeras, it's one of my favourites and illustrated by BB too:)

LBP said...

What a beautiful post! I would have loved to have gone on that walk with you! Snowdrops! absolutely lovely, even the name.

I like ghost books too. I just bought 2 a couple of weeks ago.



nancy said...

Oh, This is wonderful. All of it. Snowdrops are amazing. What God hath wrought!