Looking Out From The Limestone Paving Above Malham Cove

Fields, trees and a footpath leading to a village viewed from a cliff

View from the limestone pavement over Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales

I enjoy walking, especially through a garden or in the countryside, but words (as so often) matter: you’ll find me less keen to set out if the journey might best be described as a climb or hike. So it took my sister (for whom hills are little more than hiccups) several seasons to get my sweetheart and me to accompany her to this point, where we could look out over the edge of a broad expanse of limestone pavement above Malham Cove in Yorkshire. Thanks little sis – it was fun and you know I’d never have done it without you!

You might recognise the pavement from scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows if you’re a fan. I was fascinated by the pavement itself: its deep cracks and the odd bits of ferns and wild flowers that somehow have a foothold on life within it.  Continue reading

The Last Living Thing

A bird on the edge of the Grand Canyon

Transformed into a silhouette, its beak open, the bird on the edge of the Grand Canyon seems more symbol than living creature: something we’ll each interpret under influences as consistent as temperament and experience or as fleeting as a mood. Long time followers may recognise a similar, more uplifting shot, taken nearby.

Coming across the picture and the short poem, Requiem by Kurt Vonnegut, in quick succession, it seemed fitting to put them together here, today.   Continue reading

Finding [urban] Nature | RHS Tatton Park’s F[u]N Garden

If you’re the kind of person who smiles to see plants growing in cracks in (someone else’s) walls and pavements, puzzles over vines emerging from nowhere and loves the summer weeks when Buddleias with masses of arching, lilac-like flowers cling on to ‘seemingly every derelict building‘, this one’s for you.

Community garden on a brownfield site with deckchairs and bunting

I spoke to Roy Lancaster (a lovely fellow) at the Chelsea Flower Show years ago. Identifying me as a fellow Lancastrian by my accent, he told me how a local quarry’s unusual and diverse range of plants were brought to light when a schoolchild took a bunch of flowers to school for a nature project.

An abandoned area of disturbed land where people rarely tread is as good a home, if you happen to be a rare orchid, as anywhere else. Nature doesn’t have any concept of location, location, location – or at least not in the human way, where a house is worth ten times more in one place than in another.

Plants poking through layer of broken bricks and concrete

Plants flower where the seeds happen to fall, if they can. We’ve all seen a tangling of nature and building debris like this: we just don’t expect to see it faithfully recreated and offered up for our consideration at a flower show. Eds Higgins’ Finding [urban] Nature garden (hereafter, the F[u]N garden, following the designer’s styling) imagined a brownfield community garden as part of the RHS Young Designer Competition. Continue reading

Fragile

Tombstone in the woods with Fragile inscribed on it

Visitors who walk through the woodland at Ian Hamilton Finlay’s old home, Little Sparta, in Scotland, happen upon a mossy tombstone placed at an angle between the ferns. Like many of Little Sparta’s artworks – paths, blocks, even beehives – it bears an inscription.  Continue reading

Winter View Of Roddlesworth and Tockholes

Winter trees in silhouette

Trees, silhouetted against sky and Roddlesworth reservoir

“Large and varied, mostly deciduous wood leading to lively, attractive river and reservoirs at bottom of hill. Several visits required to see it all.” – Woodland Trust website 

This picture was taken on an alternative version of our Pie walk. My eye was taken by the effect of the colours and the horizontal and vertical lines. The setting sun’s dim, winter light simplified the scene, adding an unusual atmosphere.  Continue reading

The Discover Challenge: Senses

Moth

The subtle but beautiful animal print pattern on this moth appealed to my sense of touch so much that it was all I could do to stop myself stroking it. The moth was looking for somewhere to rest during daylight. Nothing could deter it from selecting this wooden bench – not even a human being with a camera looming in to take its picture.

I left it in peace. Continue reading

Ten must-read Gerard Manley Hopkins poems: Poetry to scratch our bellies on

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an innovator who wrote about nature and faith, rapture and despair. For me, we are all eccentrics, all individuals. Not everyone will share this view, but Gerard Manley Hopkins was idiosyncratic on anyone’s terms, often to his cost.

While at Balliol College at Oxford, he converted to Catholicism, tearing himself from his artistic, loving Anglican family to a tougher life as a Jesuit. He never regretted his decision, but struggled with depression and the drudgery of some of his duties. Conflicted about whether writing was compatible with his vocation, he wrote relatively little after his conversion. At the time of his premature death in 1889 his work was largely unknown. Continue reading