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We spent last week, 5th to 12th April, away in the Lake District staying in a rented cottage with no phone signal and no internet.  As I don’t have a smart phone I wasn’t able to send or receive messages or post anything on my blog.  It is very nice to be away from home and duty and all other pressures but there is so much catching up to do on one’s return!   Lots of e-mails, lots of interesting posts to read and such a lot of housework!!  As I am still working my way through two weeks worth of washing and ironing I don’t envisage that this post will be very long – but I may be fooling myself and will ramble on at length as usual!

It took us five and a half hours to get home which wasn’t at all bad as it had taken us over seven hours to get there on the 5th.  The roads were dry and it was cool and cloudy – ideal driving conditions.  We unpacked and had a hot drink and phoned our mothers.  R’s mum was fine but was worried about her new home help who will be coming to her twice a week.  Her old help recently retired and mother-in-law doesn’t want or like change.  It doesn’t seem fair that at 88 years of age she has to constantly make concessions and put up with unwelcome changes and interference in her way of life.  But, if she wants to stay in her own home for as long as possible, that is what she has to do.  My mother seemed fine and had had a visit from my brother, who lives in Surrey, on Friday which had pleased her very much.  She had not been able to go to church the previous Sunday so my brother was the only person she had seen and spoken to since I had taken her out the Wednesday before that.  Nine days with only her cat to talk to!  I arranged with her that I would take her to church on Sunday as I knew she wouldn’t want to miss the Palm Sunday service.

R and I then did a tour of the garden and there were some pleasures and a few disappointments.  The most noticeable thing was that the goose was no longer on her nest but there was no sign of any goslings.  What had happened while we were away?  Had the goslings hatched out and subsequently died?  Had all the eggs been infertile?  In which case wouldn’t we be able to see them still on the nest on the island?  Had the goslings hatched out and then been taken off somewhere else after a couple of days?  When we first lived in this house that is what the pair of geese did then but after three years they began to stay until the goslings fledged.  We had a change of geese nesting on the island last year after a bit of a battle between two or three ganders, so perhaps the new pair don’t feel this is a suitable place to bring up their young.  There is still hardly any grass round the pond and we have got rid of all the willow cover on the bank which might be another reason why they didn’t stay.  We had no goslings last year either, but we put that down to the terrible weather in the spring and also the goose wasn’t good at sitting on her nest.  The goose this year was very good on the nest and only left it twice a day for very short periods and always covered the eggs well with down.  We will never know what happened but I would like to think that one year we will get goslings in our garden again.

A lot of damage had been done by rabbits.  A hole had been dug at the back of my border against the house.

027Hole dug by rabbit (640x480)

A number of my plants had been eaten – probably by rabbits perhaps by deer.  We did find a dead, fully grown rabbit near R’s flowerbed.  It had been dead for a couple of days and R couldn’t see any obvious reason why it had died.  No scavenger had fancied eating it either.  Moles had been making lots of molehills.

005Mole hills (640x480)

A blackbird had been killed and plucked next to the greenhouse.  I have seen a female sparrowhawk flying about a lot since our return, strafing the small birds with fear, so I suspect her or her mate were responsible for the blackbird’s demise.

We were pleased to see that the pear tree was in full blossom.

004Pear tree (480x640) 006Pear blossom (640x480)

The greengage and the bullaces had lost nearly all their petals and we hope that we may have a little fruit.  The bird cherries were still in full blossom.  R decided that he ought to start on the mowing.  We have well over an acre of garden and most of it is grass so we have a tractor mower.  It is some years old now and makes R infuriated when it keeps blocking up – I think we will be getting a newer better model soon and then I will see R in his element again, racing round the garden, weaving in and out the trees just like at Le Mans!

019R mowing grass (640x480)

The rook chicks have hatched out in the rookery as I can hear them squeaking and squawking all day.  Here is a rook looking for tasty morsels.  Notice its glossy black feathers and feathered breeches.  I have included the second photo even though it is blurred as you can see the shape of the beak and the bald scaly skin at the front of the face.  The older the rook, the balder the face.

001Rook (640x480) 004Rook showing beak (640x480)

The duck and drake mallard are still happy in the pond at the front of the house.  A couple of common crows are also nesting in the trees on the opposite side of the lane.  Wood pigeons abound and so do Stock Doves.

003Duck and drake mallard (640x480)

Duck and drake Mallard

003Wood pigeon (640x480)

Wood Pigeon

009Stock dove (640x480)

Stock Dove

The marsh marigold in the big pond is flowering well.  The flowers are more than two inches across.

008Marsh marigold (480x640)

The marsh marigold in the little pond is flowering well too.

006Marsh marigold in small pond (640x480)

I have found a cuckoo flower by the big pond.  This flower belongs to the cabbage family but is much nicer than cabbage.  John Gerard, the 16th century herbalist said this pretty flower was called cuckoo flower because it blooms ‘for the most part in April and May, when the cuckoo begins to sing her pleasant note without stammering’.

007Cuckoo flower (640x480)

Cow Parsley is coming into flower.  In East Anglia it is called Sheep’s Parsley as well, because in olden times this area was a wool producing part of the country.  Another name for it is Queen Anne’s Lace which is a lovely name and describes the frothy whiteness of large quantities of the plant along the hedgerows.

011Cow Parsley (640x480)

Bluebell spikes are just appearing under the crabtree at the front of the house.

012Bluebell (640x480)

The crabapples are also coming into flower.  Pasque flowers and Thrift are blooming in my flowerbed.

021Pasque flower (640x480) 024Thrift (640x480)

As are miniature scented tulips.  I used to have more colours than this orangey-red but they have gradually disappeared over the years.

026Miniature scented tulip (640x480)

The Amelanchier is in flower.  It was planted in the garden a few years ago but then got damaged so I dug it up and I’ve tended it in a tub.  It will no longer grow to be a tree as I had hoped but will look alright as a shrub.  Once it has stopped flowering I will plant it out in the garden again.

 

007Amelanchier (480x640)

An Early Spotted Orchid is coming up in one of the tubs containing jonquils.  We are fortunate to have a lot of these orchids in our garden and they like seeding themselves in flower tubs.

025Orchid coming up in tub of jonquils (640x480)

One of R’s cacti is in flower in the conservatory.

039Cactus in flower (480x640) 040Cactus flower (640x480)

This is a Bee-fly.  It is harmless to humans despite the nasty looking proboscis.  Its larvae live as parasitoids in the nests of mining bees.

009Bee-fly (640x480) (2)

In driving about during the past few days I have noticed Alexanders and Stitchwort in flower in the hedgerows.  I have also seen Orange-tip butterflies flying.  The food for their caterpillars is Garlic Mustard, another member of the cabbage family and the only one to smell of garlic.

013Garlic Mustard (480x640)

I found some perennial Honesty at the entrance to one of the farm yards down our lane.

015Perennial honesty (640x480)

Oil-seed Rape is everywhere this year and is in flower at the moment.  We are surrounded by it.  We see it to the left of us…

017Oil-seed rape field to the left (640x480)

and to the right.

016Oil-seed rape field to the right (640x480)

It has a strong distinctive smell both when in flower and when left to set seed.  I don’t like it very much and it gives me hay-fever.

It is now Holy Week and we start, on Palm Sunday, by celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.  At Mum’s church we gathered in the church-yard and processed into church carrying our palm crosses.  Mum and I enjoyed the service, both having a bit of a cry during a favourite hymn.  Poor R went to St John’s church on his own but met our friends there.  I went to Compline on my own on Monday night as R had a migraine.  (I had woken with a migraine myself early on Sunday morning!).  The service was at St Lawrence church but sadly there were only four of us there.  As I drove to the church the sun was setting on one side  and the almost full moon was rising on the other side of me.  The church door was left open during the service and even though the church is up a lane off quite a well-used road the sounds of the few cars driving along it at 8pm faded away and the silence enveloped us.  Now and then we heard the evening warning calls of blackbirds and robins but most of the time it was absolutely quiet.  St Lawrence church is built on an ancient site.  The Romans had a building yard there, I think, and a Roman carved face is set into the wall of the church.  The road from which the lane to St Lawrence church turns off is called Stone Street and is a Roman road.  If one comes from Halesworth it is known as the Bungay Straight and if one comes from Bungay it is known as the Halesworth Straight.  On my way home the sky was apricot on the horizon where the sun had disappeared.  Above that the colours changed from yellow to turquoise to dusky blue and the enormous moon was shining brightly.  I saw a couple of hares and some tiny rabbits, only about four inches long – probably on their first night above ground.

Tonight R and I went to Compline at St Mary’s Church at Homersfield.  Another lovely church which has been in danger of closing for some time.  There were eight of us there tonight and the church was lit by lamps and candles as there was no electric light.

As I thought it would, this post has got to be a long one again and I haven’t done all the housework I should have!