Silence in the nature reserve

And a happy new year to you all! I think it’s still all right to say that, but this has been my theme recently… just a little too late!

We spent the weekend after the new year in the middle of silence. It was beautiful. I’d been wanting to stay at the Elmley Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey for some time, and it was everything I dreamed of.

We took the little but beautiful Salt Box, which contains a bed, kitchen and bathroom but more importantly this view when we woke up in the morning….

We didn’t take advantage of the outdoor shower – surprisingly! But we did spend time reading, thinking and walking. I made a list of all the gardens I’ve visited this year and haven’t shared with you here, so – again late to the party – I’ll be catching up with them soon.

But in the meantime, enjoy this video taken just outside our little cabin before I sat down to write…

 

Which made me think of this poem, Silence by Billy Collins. Here’s an extract:

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night
like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
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Poor Susan and the sounds of the city

This week I was lucky enough to go on a guided walk around the city of London with Rosie from Dotmaker Tours. She was concentrating particularly on the sounds of the city – we walked without talking, just listening (almost too intense, was the verdict), we talked how the city would sound in the future and how it sounded in the past. I wrote a poem for Rosie after, you can find it here.

The walk was wonderful, and one thing that stood out for me is the little park Rosie took us too, between Cheapside and Wood Street. It’s just a park with a tree you’d just pass by normally. I wasn’t even sure why we’d stopped there to be honest, although it was interesting to find out that it had been the site of the church, St Peter Cheap, which was burnt down during the Great Fire of London, (interesting to find out that Cheap was the medieval word for market). And also to see these benches. I’d never heard of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, and looking at their website after I see loads of useful information about London’s green spaces.

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So it was particularly lovely to find out from Rosie that it was this very plane tree (below) in the park that had inspired William Wordsworth to write his Reverie of Poor Susan. And here it is – proof that even in the city, nature can be the real time-traveller. To the past, as well as the future. Amazing to think of Wordsworth walking down these streets, looking up at the tree and him, in turn, thinking of poor Susan walking the same steps… and so on!

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The Reverie of Poor Susan
by WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,
Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.

‘Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,
The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes!

Papermaking in the garden

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Back in the summer (remember that far back, when the sun shone and everything?), I went on a day papermaking course at Morley College in London. I was drawn to it by the fact we were going to be using natural plant materials, but what I hadn’t expected was that I would fall in love with the little college garden off Waterloo, and especially the plants grown for colour.

It was a taster session rather than a real course, but led by a real expert, Lucy Baxendale. There’s a course starting in June though, you can sign up here – I’m tempted. It was such a joy to go round looking for seeds, plants and textures to use, to feel the gooey mixture (like Blue Peter, prepared earlier for us) give as it turned from plants into paper. Yes, that real pleasure in getting your hands dirty and actually making something.

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Here are the scraps I took away with me:

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And I had just the poem I knew I wanted to write on the one I made using honesty. Here it is:

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My father takes Rupert Brooke’s poems to France, 1945

This knot of honesty I picked today
must have fallen out of my pocket
so you’ll have to believe me when I say

each leaf was thinner than a page
in the book of poems my father
took to war. I like to think

it was the weight behind each word
that kept pushing him to a future
he can’t have dared write himself:

to love and be so loved. Though once
reading nonsense rhymes at bedtime,
he leant so far into that night’s book

I started crying, sensing how
he wanted to topple into it,
just as he must have done once

smelling Brooke’s sweet honeyed tea
above the stench of mud and blood,
this other world he could slip into.

We’re in The English Garden!

Or at least the very beautiful glossy magazine by that name. You can imagine how happy I was to flick through this month’s copy to find a mention of this website by Lia Leendertz. A wonderful surprise. lia In fact  I was SO happy I did some serious squeaking – which isn’t so cool when you’re on a crowded train. Ho hum. Anyway moving on (which was what the other people in my carriage wished they could do when I then started to cry a little) here’s a poem about some other news from the garden for you. It’s one of mine this time, and is especially for Lia who is already a muse:

The News From the Garden

is earthshattering,

a blackbird’s made its nest

in the hawthorn tree,

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and breaking as I write,

seedlings planted a month ago

are bursting forth, teasing

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us with their rainbow hints,

but if you rub 
a leaf

between finger and thumb

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you can smell summer

already; a baby is kicking 
its legs

in response at the clouds

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rolling over her like a news tape

filled with sun-bites,

while over by the swings,

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a camelia 
leads an uprising

of blood red against the privet,

tulips and bluebells form a coalition,

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and even the grass strengthens its position

near where this morning, at five past eleven

dizzy with dandelion flowers

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the cat let a pigeon fly free.

Only the plane tree, obedient

to the season follows the prompts

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while propped up against the wall

already warming itself for glory,

the first rosebud waits for her cue.

Chelsea Fringe – Cake in the Garden…

Well, I’ve come to the end of (almost) daily posts but haven’t come to the end of all the London gardens so I will be posting more on here. Slowly though. And will be collating them all under the London Garden tab on this website. It’s been yummy, a piece of cake, the cherry on my gardening cupcake…

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I could go on, but this is actually a very clumsy segue into my contribution to Veg Plotting’s wonderful Bloggers Cut event – where garden bloggers share their ‘cake and garden’ moments. So I thought I would make a garden cake. And to celebrate an article about my mum, Elizabeth Peplow, which has just appeared in Herbs Magazine, I decided to make a herb garden cake.

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Thyme and rosemary and chocolate… yes! (I left the lavender out from the recipe because of personal taste and I don’t think it loses anything)

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Topped with ricotta and honey and even more herbs… although one cake wanted to grow its own herb garden on top…

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It’s a tribute to Mum’s herb wheels, I think… here’s one of the photographs from the magazine. She looks so young here!

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And to top it off a cup of herb tea (from one of the Otter Farm plants I’ve just got for my new ‘tea garden’).

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Here’s a poem to enjoy with it… all about Mum’s and chocolate cake which seems appropriate. It’s by the definitely-not-just-for-kids Michael Rosen.

Thanks for all your nice comments and messages during this tour – and to finish, I invite you to write about cake, or even just enjoy a slice for yourself! You can see some lovely posts over at Veg Plotting! Thanks to Michelle for setting this up, and sorry to be late to the party. No need for you to be though, you can still enjoy one last weekend of the Chelsea Fringe.

Roll on next year!

Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 16

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 16. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)

Pop Up Garden by the Balcony Gardener, Squint

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This pop up garden by the Balcony Gardener has been a popular part of the Chelsea Fringe – based at the showroom of the innovative furniture designer, Squint. I love their patchworked wonderfully mad furniture so this was a double reason to go.

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I have a tiny patch of green myself, so it was exciting to see evocative gardens even smaller. And look with sun…

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Pretty as a picture…

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You just want to catch it in a bottle…

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Better than a cocktail…

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All the equipment you need to make your own mini garden is available at Squint until the exhibition stops on 19th June, but the inspiration gave me the chance to visit my own favourite mini-garden shop, Le Petit Jardin in Tunbridge Wells…

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Look how pretty Penny makes everything look…

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And oh oh I can even get animals for my garden..

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And so I went looking for a tiny poem for these beautiful gardens. What better than a haiku? Here’s one by Kit Wright:

ACORN HAIKU

Just a green olive

In its own little egg-cup:

It can feed the sky.

I invite you to write your own small poem… you can get some help here!

Chelsea Fringe – London Garden No 13

Five Minutes Peace: a garden to sit in, a poem to read, and a prompt to write to … No 13. (Find out more about what this is all about here.)

Stone Flowers

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All the poems I’ve included so far have come from something in the garden. This one is a little different because it was finding the poem that came first, this one by Kathleen Raine…

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A SPELL FOR CREATION

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Within the flower there lies a seed,
Within the seed there springs a tree,
Within the tree there spreads a wood.
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In the wood there burns a fire,
And in the fire there melts a stone,
Within the stone a ring of iron.
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Within the ring there lies an O,
Within the O there looks an eye,
In the eye there swims a sea,
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And in the sea reflected sky,
And in the sky there shines the sun,
Within the sun a bird of gold.
*
Within the bird there beats a heart,
And from the heart there flows a song,
And in the song there sings a word.
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In the word there speaks a world,
A world of joy, a world of grief,
From joy and grief there springs my love.
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Oh love, my love, there springs a world,
And on the world there shines a sun,
And in the sun there burns a fire,
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Within the fire consumes my heart,
And in my heart there beats a bird,
And in the bird there wakes an eye,
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Within the eye, earth, sea and sky,
Earth, sky and sea within an O
Lie like the seed within the flower.

Lovely eh?

It was this poem that made me notice all the flowers around me in the middle of the city.

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Beautiful beautiful stone flowers on nearly every building! How could I not have noticed them before?

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And so I invite you today to look up and write about what you see that you’ve never noticed before before it disappears!

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