Sunday, 2 March 2014

Frost On The Down, Salisbury Cathedral and Poppy Auditions For American Beauty

It's been a weekend of Two Halves here as far as the weather is concerned. Saturday was glorious sunshine while today has been grey cloud, cold and rain.

M left an article out for me called 'Spring Plants For Early Pollinators' last week. I made a list and have been steadily ticking things off it: Pulmonaris, Galanthus, Anemone blanda, Prunus incisa (my treat to myself and the garden today), Snakeshead fritillaries, Muscari and Crocuses. I've been planting up a Spring Bed beside the hedge where the rats were living. Now it is a sea of green leaves and the first splashes of colour are starting. It is going to look beautiful.

And prove to be timely, as the honey bees were out in force on the Daphne yesterday...

Crocuses in the new bed
There was even enough warmth in the sun for Ted to adopt his traditional 'summer snoozing spot' on the pheasant mat by the front door...(although this is now not without potential peril, due to the recent addition of a basketball hoop on the wall beside the step- a blatant attempt to get the boys off their computers and outside more often).

It was sheep-checking day yesterday, so M and I took the dogs out first thing to check the girls. The landscape looked stunning in the early morning light and there was a sharp frost across the down....

Old Green Lane

We did some tree ids while we were there, based on buds and bark. This is easier than it sounds once you've got the hang of it. I double-checked them when we got home (This is a great site for tree information and IDs) and was pleased to see I'd got them right. So there is hope! I'm starting to build up a database of these pictures for my own future reference.

Small-leaved Lime bark. This is one of the original post-Ice Age coloniser trees of the UK which, although once widespread across Southern England (it was the dominant species) is now fairly rare here, so it was good to see it and to know it is there. I will look forward to visiting it this summer.

Small-leaved lime buds

Sycamore bark. Sycamore is not a native tree. It was introduced from Europe, grows quickly and has such a dense leaf-fall in autumn that it can be hard for things to grow beneath it.

Sycamore bud
Sycamore seed left on the tree from last autumn
On the way back across the down I heard a thrush singing, and was surprised to find a flock of them spread across the tops of three of four trees. They were nervous, flying off at my approach, but I managed to get some pics and when I blew them up realised that they were Mistle Thrushes (judging by the long wing drop). They are the first Mistles I've seen this year and I was pleased to see so many of them.

M's parents came round for supper last night and his ma told a funny story about a village lady who is in her book group. This lady (a stout Yorkshire woman) told Is that she has decided she would read Fifty Shades of Grey 'to see what all the fuss is about'. 

'Well,' (she said to Is) 'I was very surprised, because it was all about men doing things to each other. It wasn't at all what I'd expected.' 

It turned out that instead of googling fifty shades of grey, she'd typed in fifty shades of gay....

Sunday's regulation walk with grumpy teens took place this morning in Salisbury. We had a nice walk round the cathedral while L did his usual trick of disappearing off into a book shop and managed to inveigle me into buying him a book. He'd almost finished it by the time we got home. His library borrowing card says he's read 195 books in the last 18 months, and that doesn't include books from school or all the ones I've bought him. His vocab is excellent as a result, which goes some way to making up for his handwriting, which resembles nothing so much as a drunk spider who's knocked over an ink pot, walked through it and wobbled across the page hiccuping every now and then.

Salisbury Cathedral was started in 1220 and has the largest spire in the United Kingdom. It also houses the Magna Carter, which we couldn't see today because it was closed, but we will go back. It is a beautiful church set in a wonderful Close stuffed full of ancient architectural gems and is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the vicinity. 

Salisbury town started life as Old Sarum, a Neolithic settlement north of the current city. The Romans used the fort and in 552 Saxons and Celts fought a battle there. The Celts lost. By the early 1000s a settlement had grown up on the site of the old fort, although nearby Wilton was the more important of the two, being Capital of Wessex and the site in 871 of an important battle between Alfred The Great and the Vikings, which he lost and which left him in retreat for several years (ushering in the period made famous by the burning of the cakes while he was in the marshes story). 

Old Sarum town had a mint and a market and in 1069 William the Conq built a wooden castle to oversee the settlement. In 1075 a Bishop moved his seat there, and in 1217 the seat was moved to a site on Salisbury Plain. This became the Salisbury of today. The town was created on a specific plan, a grid pattern, and plots of land were leased for the building of houses. by 1219 it had a market and an annual fair and in 1227 Salisbury was given its Charter.

In 1244 a stone bridge was built across the river Avon which increased traffic flow to Salisbury and as it grew, so Wilton wilted. The main industry was wool, a huge trade in Medieval England with the potential to make lots of money; this is reflected in the grand houses you can see all around the town. By the 15th Century Salisbury was one of the largest towns in England with an estimated population of 8000.

There is a nice cafe just outside the Cathedral Close walls called Boston Tea which has oak beams and squashy sofas if you fancy a cuppa afterwards. If you fancy one of the houses that line the close, there is one on the market at the moment: a pretty cream-fronted house to the tune of a cool 1.85 million...

Three Graceful Ladies

Gothic stonework

I loved this ancient door handle

Mompesson House in the Cathedral Close. 18th Century National Trust property.

Salisbury Cathedral

Ancient narrow gateway out of the Cathedral Close and into Salisbury town

Taken from inside the Cloisters

Also taken from inside the Cloisters

Houses lining the Close

External Stonework on the front aspect of the Cathedral

Detail of statuary over the main door

There were numerous memorial inscriptions on the walls inside the Cloisters. This one caught my eye. Arthur Corfe Angel was an Officer on board the London, a British steam ship heading for Melbourne that sank in a storm. There is a very touching record of what happened. He lost his life during 'one of the most fatal gales on record' when only 19 out of the 263 souls on board were saved. Arthur is described as 'a true-hearted and dauntless sailor who counted duty more precious than life. He remained at his post to the last and was seen by the survivors, with his hand still upon the engine of which he was in charge, calmly awaiting death when the waters closed over the ship.'
This information is on a tablet in Exeter Cathedral where his father was organist. Below is the inscription in Salisbury Cathedral...

We wandered back through Salisbury and stopped off for a hot chocolate before making our way home...

When we got home, this was waiting for us in the breakfast room where the dogs have their baskets.

Say no more.....

No prizes for guessing who was responsible.

Luckily, the roses were on their way out and I suppose it was indirectly my fault for leaving the vase on the floor at puppy-nose height instead of taking them outside. M said it reminded him of that scene in American Beauty where all the rose petals are spread out across the bed....

And finally, here are the results of last night's Moth Box Outing....

He's a March moth (impeccable timing, heh?) and I know he's a 'he' because Mrs March moths are apterous (that is to say they have no wings). He was Rather Handsome I thought, and slightly golden shimmery in the morning light. He was the only one I found and even he was on the gate so the box itself was empty. Still, he brings my 2014 count to 5 new species, which is a Good Start.

I'll leave you with an inscription in the Cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral that I thought was a good Motto for the Week Ahead, and a nice meditation for the healing circle which starts tomorrow night at 7.30. Feel free to join in if you would like to. 

I don't do meditation in the sit down, clear your head, focus your thoughts organised kind-of way (I did try it but I got bored and I would much rather go out for a walk to clear my head to be honest). But I do find it helpful to set aside half an hour/ an hour once a week to let the dust settle, think things through and send good wishes for health and happiness to friends and family. You can call this prayer, meditation, positive thinking, what you will, but I reckon it makes a difference.

I watched a fascinating prog on prayer and distance healing years ago. It was a university study, and the results were interesting- the group who had people praying for them and didn't know it improved more than the test group who had no one praying for them (at least not as part of the study). My sis and I used to harness that kind of positive thought when we were competing on our ponies across country when we were kids. We'd do a Pairs class where I would ride in front and she'd follow (being my little sis). Every time we came to a fence we'd bellow together at the top of our lungs 'PMA!!!!!!' which stood for Positive Mental Attitude. 
Lord knows what the jump judges made of us, because as soon as the dear little ponies hooves had all touched down safely on the other side of the jump we'd roar with laughter and tear off to the next fence. It was great fun.

Anyway, if you want to share that half hour tomorrow I will be sitting down at 7.30pm to think good thoughts and send some prayers the way of friends and family, as well as to those of you who have asked for help with specific things. In the mean time, here's that inscription....

Wishing you all a pleasant evening and a good week ahead.

CT :-)


  1. Ted looked quite cozy.
    I would love to have a walk down Olde Greene Lane .

    1. It does look a lovely place to walk, doesn't it? It's an ancient trackway off the Down and leads into the Market Town in the valley below. I suspect it's been there since prehistoric times, as the Down itself has Bronze Age tumuli on it. They still use it to drove cattle down off the Down and into the fields nearby.

  2. What a lovely post - and one I shall return to, for a trip down memory lane. I used to work in Salisbury, and lived just outside Coombe Bissett, about 3 miles away. Salisbury is one of my favourite Cathedral cities, and one of the few built up places I would consider living.

    I really enjoyed seeing all my favourite spots again. When you know somewhere so well, to see photos of it is like a Big Hug : )

    I had to smile at you and your sister and your PMA!!! I don't suppose you were PC members were you? I used to be a Senior Instructor with the Hursley branch - gosh, that seems a lifetime ago now!

    1. I did wonder whether you might know it. Salisbury's one of my favourite cities too- such a pretty place and somehow feels older than it is. Seeing familiar places when you're far away is a lovely feeling, a remembering of roots, I always think :-)

      Yes, K and I were PC members, although at Eridge because we grew up in Sussex. I have done a few Hursley PC events in years gone by and have friends who's children are in the Hursley PC now, plus one of L's teachers is a senior instructor there- small world, heh? :-)

  3. P.S. Another early pollinator is Oriental Borage, which is currently flowerin in my garden. It flowers before the leaves emerge.

    1. Great, thanks for the tip- I'll add it to my list.

  4. A wonderful post CT - I did enjoy reading about Salisbury's history and the cathedral. Another of those places I'd love to visit one day! I'd love to walk down the old Green Lane too :) Not much in the moth trap here either at the moment.

    1. Salisbury is definitely worth a visit if you're ever down this way and the countryside round about is lovely too- mostly chalk. Stonehenge and Avebury are also not far. Raining here today and hail too a few minutes ago- poor moths! :-)

  5. I was very interested to read your pollinator list and I love the bee of course!! Love the trees, too. I haven't been to Salisbury (and Cathedral) for years so I enjoyed seeing it again in your photos and reading all the history. What a sad story of Arthur Corfe Angel.
    I like the way Poppy just leaves the evidence for everyone to see!
    A lovely post, with so much to think about.

    1. We're thinking about putting another Daphne in beside the two we already have- at this time of the year it's definitely the star pollinator and insect plant here, although I did see an enormous bumble trying to feed in a snowdrop at the garden centre yesterday- the entire plant bent over with his weigh and he fell out!

  6. First to grab my attention was of course little Ted, isn't he gorgeous.
    The tree barks were next, they reminded me of when we used to do bark rubbings to put in our nature books.
    Salisbury Cathedral was next, we visited when our eldest son was living close by, I think Ted Heath used to live in one of those grand houses, could be wrong.
    and lastly, how on earth does the female moth fly without wings? it obviously doesn't, please tell.
    Lovely post and yes, positive thinking does work but you have to remember to do it of course. lol

    1. Ted is a complete darling and the kindest most gentle dog you'll ever meet. And you're so right about bark rubbings- I'd forgotten all about those! You're also right about Ted Heath having lived in the close. The female moth doesn't fly poor soul, she has to content herself with crawling up trees. Several lady moths are wingless and to be honest, they look a lot like grubs! I can't think about positive thinking with hearing my sis and I shouting 'PMA!' at the top of our lungs all those years ago- it always brings a smile to my face... :-)

  7. It looked a fantastic morning to count the sheep. Your pictures of Salisbury catherdal and surrounding area were lovely. I think Poppy must have tried to share the blame by leaving some of the roses of Ted's bed too! Sorry I missed your 7.30 deadline. Sarah x

    1. Crisp and clear- a gorgeous morning to be out and about early. Such a bonus to see and hear all those wonderful mistles too. I expect she was trying to shift the blame sideways- but we all know her far to well to be fooled! The 7.30 sessions are every Monday- anytime really between 7.30-8 and it doesn't need to be the full half hour, just whatever is needed x

  8. Salisbury looks lovely, and the sheep look like they are posing for the camera!

    1. I loved the way the early morning frosty light was framing them up on the hill. Salisbury- well worth a visit if you're ever up this way.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x