Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

April flowers ... but no showers

I've been spending as much time as I can in the garden, determined to have a productive vegetable plot and colourful flower border this year. And when Cliff and I both have time off we go out for walks, visiting some of our favourite local places. Here are three

This is Ickworth, the estate surrounding the National Trust property. We visited at Easter when the car park, overflow car park and over-flow over-flow car park were heaving . . . families visiting to hunt for Easter Eggs. But beyond the formal gardens we had the views to ourselves.
The magnificent oak trees are just coming into leaf. 

Ash before Oak
we're in for a soak
Oak before Ash
we're in for splash

At the end of March it seemed as if the Ash tree buds were about to break before the Oak. Now the Ash trees are still in bud, so if the old rhyme is true we're heading for a drought.
There were others along our route . . . little lambs skipping in the sunshine.

Another weather related rhyme . . .

Ne'er cast a clout
'til May be out

but is that the month of May or the May (or Hawthorn) blossom?
or this year it might be the PM? I think I'll hedge my bets and keep a warm sweater handy all year.

It was while walking in Lower Wood, just over the border in Cambridgeshire, that I noticed a Hawthorn in flower . . . but looking closer the flowers were large with red stems and the leaves had shallow rounded lobes. 
This is the Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata, you'll find it in ancient woodland. In medieval times this was the most abundant Hawthorn of the English countryside.
The Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is the usual Hawthorn hedging. Along the hedgerows near the wood the Common Hawthorn buds are about to bloom, you can see the leaves are divided into pointed lobes and the flower stems are green.

Probably my favourite Easter walk is along the Devil's Dyke, an Anglo-Saxon ditch and bank which was built 1300 years ago to defend the trackways along the narrow stretch of land lying between the Fens (before they were drained) and the uplands of West Suffolk (which were thickly wooded). Did a Saxon leader announce "I'm gonna build a big ditch" ?
Last year the ditch along this section was dense with brambles, over winter it has been cleared, so we ventured down from the path along the bank top. Walking along the bottom the the ditch you can appreciate how much chalky earth had been dug and piled up . . . how many people did it take to do this? How long did it take?
The reason for my annual 'pilgrimage' to this spot is to see the Pasqueflowers, Pulsatilla vulgaris. This is one of the few places to see them growing in the wild, the little clumps of soft down covered feathery leaves cling to the steep bank. Unexpectedly exotic purple petals with a boss of golden stamens in the centre, look like fragments of some richly embroidered gown.

The quintessential flower of Spring in England is the Bluebell, though the true English Bluebell is now increasingly rare as it hybridises with the Spanish Bluebell.
We drove down to Hertfordshire to revisit a Bluebell wood that Cliff had seen while on a Rambling Club walk. It was well worth the trip and walk to find it . . . alongside the Chiltern Way south of Hitchin.
The density of flowers seems to flood the woodland with a blue so intense and shimmering. 

On all our walks in April our boots remained mud-free. There's been no significant rain in most of the South-East of England for over 2 months. At times it has been unseasonably hot, 25C, and now a bitter Northerly wind is blowing an bringing night frosts. Today we had a hail shower!

The farmland is cracked and dry. We need rain.

Last Sunday I had a stall at Wyken Hall for the Plants & Crafts in the Garden event. I've attended for the past 2 years and it's one of my favourite markets.
This year the sun shone! It was a busy day with 700 people coming through the gates.
I sold lots of cards and chatted with some lovely customers and fellow stallholders. And I bought myself some treats, a polka-dotty canvas hat made in Suffolk by Sally Wilding of Hedkase; an exquisite  wire and beadwork bee brooch made by Susan North and a pair of blue and grey glass earrings by Clair Rice of HunnyBunny Glass.

I'm looking forward to getting out and about over the next Bank Holiday weekend and wearing my hat! Hope you all have a good May Day.



  1. Ickworth is somewhere I still have to explore, but now I'm a NT member I'm sure I will. The pasqueflowers are so beautiful, it's hard to imagine how that actual dyke was built isn't it.

    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy visiting Ickworth, and the formal gardens will soon be looking wonderful with all the tree peonies coming into flower.

  2. Had to chuckle at the "May" reference to your upcoming election.
    I've seen drifts of bluebells that look like something straight out of Photoshop.The intensity is almost electric. Thanks for reminding me of the 2 hawthorns' differences.

    1. You're right about the electric blue. Glad you appreciated the topical reference.

  3. You live in a remarkable place. What I wouldn't give for that bee would amaze you. :D

    1. The other insect brooches were amazing, I was spoilt for choice!

  4. Your pace of life seems a lot calmer than mine at the moment! The bluebells in that wood are stunning and I love your recent purchases, especially the bee brooch.

  5. Beautiful walks. It really is a wonderful time of year isn't it? If only it would rain though - since last June every month except November has been below average rainfall in our part of Essex. The only bonus is that walking is easy!

    1. Hello and thank you for commenting, I've just popped over to your web site and see you're not far away. You're right, we haven't had to clean mud off our boots for about 6 months! Below average rainfall for the driest part of the UK is not a lot.

  6. Celia, I drove past a notorious boggy patch this morning and noted that it looked remarkably dried up. Then I started to ponder on how little rain we've had here in Wales and reading your post has now confirmed my thoughts. I forget how much less rain you see on your side so if we are noticing it here then it must be a worry in the east?
    That bluebell wood looks spectacular and I've seen some lovely sights this year already but the pasque flower takes the prize. How fantastic to see it in the wild. We have tried to grow it in the garden many times but it gives up the ghost. Seems it needs very special conditions to thrive.

    1. Yes the irrigation contraptions are already set up one the fields in the Breckland on the Suffolk/Norfolk border and much of the wetland areas are just drying mud. Not good for farms, gardens or wildlife. I've tried to grow Pasqueflowers and failed, maybe they need a near vertical chalk bank?

  7. Well now, you have managed to increase my knowledge today since I was entirely unaware of the Midland Hawthorn, isn't it pretty?

    I had forgotten about Pasque flower, what a delicious colour - speaking of which, those Bluebells are stunning.

    I like your purchases and will be clicking those links in a moment. Enjoy May Day.

  8. Good evening Celia. I hope that you will forgive me my very tardy comments on your most recent posts. Perhaps Instagram has stolen my attention span. Or perhaps it's down to my inability to stay away from news from Washington, DC.
    In any event, it's been a delight to get caught up hereabouts. A very happy 10th Blogging Anniversary to you! I feel so fortunate not only to have been enjoying Purple Podded Peas for ages, but also to have been able to get to know you in person. I almost feel as if I know your chickens, and also do hope to meet Cliff in person on some future UK visit.
    Your report and review of the Fitzwilliam exhibit was so interesting. I also wonder about the "re-naming" of the show, and bet that I would have enjoyed seeing the objects displayed that showed some of daily life in past centuries.
    Thank you also for your reports of the marvelous walks that you and Cliff have been taking. A wonderful way to take advantage of the unusually dry April weather!
    Wishing that I could have visited the Wyken Hall event...every bit of what you've described about this event over the years tells me that I would enjoy it very much. Your choices of purchases from fellow exhibitors look wonderful. Bravo.
    Promising to be a more attentive visitor to your beautiful site as spring edges into summer. Meanwhile, best wishes from NYC. xo


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