Monday 3 April 2017


Our daughter and the grandsons, now aged four and two, are over from New Zealand - and who wouldn't head for England now that April's there? As usual, she has brought fine weather with her, and yesterday was a quite glorious April day - the elms (such as they are), lime trees and hornbeams in tiny leaf, horse chestnut parasols just opening, blackthorn and wild cherry in flower, the first cuckoo flowers showing above the grass, green alkanet briefly a thing of beauty, white comfrey and honesty in flower, early bluebells and cow parsley umbels, speedwell and violets, even the dandelions a glorious spectacle in their first flush. In the gardens, magnolia trees are flowering as amazingly as ever, and any day now wisteria, lilac and spring clematis will follow. What a time to be in England...
  We all spent the afternoon in the local park where I (and Mrs N, separately) had played and explored and (in my case) climbed trees six decades ago. The boys had no interest in the children's playground (which wasn't there in our day) but were fascinated by the grassy slopes and curving old-brick walls of what had been, in the eighteenth century, an ornamental canal with a grandly conceived grotto at its end, of which only the brick structure of 'caves' and tunnels (now blocked off) were completed. The house for which this landscape was laid out never got built, but these remnants of the grand plan have happily survived. Climbing the slopes and rolling down them, jumping off the walls, crawling into the one open tunnel - the boys relished it all, just as their grandparents, and their mother, had in their childhoods. These continuities, the fruits of staying so long 'rooted in one dear perpetual place', are to be treasured. And, to cap it all, as we were larking about by the grotto, the first orange-tip butterfly of the year wandered past.
  There were more to come today as I took a walk on another boyhood haunt, Wilderness Island (which really was a wilderness in my day) - not only orange tips but my first speckled woods of the year, a profusion of them, and peacocks, commas, holly blues, brimstones, a red admiral and a tortoiseshell. In England - now!

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