What a difference a year makes!

I took these photographs of a woodland near Crossgar almost exactly a year ago.  It was once part of the Great Wood of Dufferin that lay between Downpatrick to the south and Bangor to the north.  This remnant is just over 14 acres and is a haven for birds and butterflies.  The trees are mainly oak and ash with willow and alder in the wetter areas.

6 paths

9 paths


13 seat

Today whilst the gales are blowing in from the south-west I can only dream of this lovely woodland and hope that it won’t be too long before I can return there.

A spring afternoon

Another bright sunny afternoon and although I’m in short sleeves, when the breeze picks up it has a nip in its touch.  The cloud is high, thin and wispy and in places, it looks like smoke drifting in from the northeast.  I have just put my jerkin on again and turned the collar up as a large area of cloud looking like cotton wool closes off the direct sunlight for too long.

There are a couple of big oak trees in neighbouring gardens and they have begun filling up with the lovely fresh greenery of new leaves.  I can still see the branches though and on one high branch, a hooded crow strains at its perch to call to its companions in the next tree.  Three hoarse calls but there is no reply, and then they all take off at the same time heading towards the fields by the river.

As soon as the crows have gone, Woodpigeon begin calling, two quite close by, although I cannot see them, and another much further away, its call filling the gaps in the calls of the closer birds.  Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) are so common now, even coming into my tiny garden when I put food out through the winter, although they prefer the ivy berries in the hedge. 

Here is something I wrote a few weeks ago in the early days of spring:


Plucking the last ivy berries

From the top of the hedge –

Three Woodpigeon.

3 wood pigeon (2)

Photo by Ashley

My apologies for the photograph but I only had seconds to capture the scene and the birds would not stay still, falling over each other trying to grab the berries.

I am trying to train myself to write only spring nature-verses when it is springtime and so the above verse is in my spring notebook.  When summer begins, in only a few weeks at the beginning of May, I will open a summer notebook and hopefully find lots of lovely summer things to write about there.

Beside me, I can hear the mumbling buzz of a bumblebee as she extracts nectar from the tiny flowers of Rosemary.  The plant was overlooked last year and now its three-foot spires are covered in delicate lilac flowers.  Lovely!


Photo by Ashley

It’s difficult to believe, but a couple of evenings ago not far from here the temperature dropped to -5.8c and the violas that are in the ground were all touched by the cold.  I was able to protect one small hanging basket moving it into the garden shed and today their lovely flower faces are enjoying this spell of warm sunshine.  And so am I.


Photo by Ashley

Enjoy what’s left of spring and stay safe.

Spring Equinox


Is she drunk, this bumblebee,

as she stumbles and crawls

inside the crocus flower?


She is certainly bedraggled,

having just woken

from a very long sleep,


and in the urgent need

to drink a flower’s nectar

she forgot her usual early morning cleansing.


I love this busy Moma,

this fuzzy beastie, little Queen,

all hum and quiver,

full of vigour.



Sunday 22nd December 2019

Winter Solstice

This morning, at sometime between 03.00 and 03.15am, I woke up feeling completely refreshed and fully alive!  It was only when I turned onto my back that the searing pain returned!  It took another 30 minutes before I was able to stand by the bedroom window and peer into the street where the darkness was diminished by the street lights.  It wasn’t raining but the tarmac glistened.

I left the bedroom, and with the aid of 2 walking sticks I shuffled my way down the hall and into the kitchen.  I turned on the small, softer lights, those above the worktops.  I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of cool water and waited.  It would be another hour before I could take medication.  It was 04.00am!

Whilst I sat there massaging my right leg, hopelessly trying to reduce the pain, I remembered that today was the Winter Solstice, mid-winter!  From today the sun would once again be slowly climbing higher above the horizon, imperceptibly bringing more daylight into our world.  This return of the light is part of the cycle of life, of increasing daylight and warmth.

It is shocking that at nearly 70 years of age, I am being reminded about the earth’s cycle of celebration (www.glenniekindred.co.uk).  In a little, illustrated book she writes about this time as a festival, of roots that have been growing within us, bringing stability:

The days will lengthen..…we can bring our inner wisdom out of the dark unconscious, to grow with the increasing light..…It is time to birth our visions, name our dreams and make our resolutions…..Winter Solstice is an opportunity to come out of hibernation, be loving, generous and sociable…..The old year has died and the way is now prepared for the rebirth of activity and expansion into the outer world.

Whilst it was still dark outside, I lit a candle.  Here in NI it was exactly 04.19am and surely a time to hope for a better future.  To all who pass this way, HAPPY YULE!

From A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day by John Donne:

Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,

Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;


Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,

Let me prepare towards her, and let me call

This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this

Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.




Tollymore 2

On the return leg of our recent Tollymore walk, a group of people emerged from the woods!  Long cloaks, fur collars, staffs!


We couldn’t work out why they were dressed so; what was going on?  It was only when we returned to car park and saw them boarding a tour coach: Game of Thrones!



At the end of October we visited Tollymore Forest Park in County Down.  Even if the car park is full of cars, which it was, you can still walk there without meeting many others on the good paths.  The following day was Halloween, and so a peaceful walk among the trees was a good place to give thanks to our ancestors; a great time for reflection and a time to allow seeds of renewal to settle in our still warm minds.

Autumn Equinox

We’re almost half way through the autumn and the gardens are slowly fading, but here is a bright corner being visited by the many flying insects.  My photograph shows a hoverfly.  Can you see it?

michaelmas dais

Deep cerise flowers

Now filling the dark border;

Michaelmas daisies!