New Adventures

I realise that I haven’t written anything on my blog since the end of April. Why? Because every day consisted of the same routine and life took on a new dimension. With one walk a day, my life seemed to going around in circles. Same park, varying routes but always a circle. The days took on a new rhythm. Get up, have breakfast, ‘faff about’, reading, sewing a project I started nearly 20 years ago, cooking tea and watching the ever decreasing number of programmes on TV.

Over the course of the lockdown I took photos of a horse chestnut tree in the local park.  Hers is an update on my tree. It is now in full leaf and venturing inside its canopy I found these stunning white leaves.

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During the strict lockdown I became addicted to Crafter’s Companion and the daily shows offering lots of craft supplies for sale as well as demonstrations on how to use them. I now have a stunning collection of colouring pens, pencils and card making equipment. Expect home-made birthday and Christmas cards from now on. Results may vary.

 

On the 20th May the County Council decided to open the car parks at the country parks. I felt like I had been let out of prison. First stop was Sywell where I had been the day the lockdown was announced. The birds were still singing but difficult to see with all the leaves. I stopped to talk to a bird watcher, who showed me where some blue tits had a nest in a hole in a tree. That took up some time and I discovered from him lots of other places to visit.

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On 25 May we ventured further afield to another country park. Fermyn Woods. There is a 10.5 mile walk, known as the Lyveden Way which we decided to tackle. The weather was exceptional. Bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and once away from the country park not many people.

The walk passes a National Trust property Lyveden New Bield, a building that was never finished. There was wildlife a-plenty. Deer, red kites, yellowhammers and the wonderful calling of the cuckoo. Every Spring I walk along the Carriageway track above Rothbury and there is always the sound of the cuckoo and I was sad that I wouldn’t hear one at all this year but … the Universe always provides.  I have been walking a lot during lockdown so a walk of this length was not really a major challenge. Poor Mr Scarr has not had the opportunity to walk as much so was finding it difficult to put one foot in front of the other as the mile count increased. Lying in a cornfield refusing to go any further was his response. What did I do? Walked away and left him with the occasional backward glance to see if he was still following (and alive).

Next on my tour of Northamptonshire’s country parks was Brixworth. The day I went there was still no access around Pitsford Water but a quiet stroll through the woods revealed some magic …

The Little Grey Men Trail in the park celebrates the life and works of Denys Watkins-Pitchford or ‘BB’ who was born in Lamport, not far from Brixworth. The book of the same name, won the Carnegie Medal in 1942. It is the story of the last four gnomes in England who live in an old oak tree, beside the Folly brook. I love their names Baldmoney, Sneezewort, Dodder and Cloudberry. For a few minutes I was a child again.

I have intermittently done some on-line yoga. I can’t wait for the studio to open again. Kristina, the owner of Soo Yoga has been looking after our minds and bodies by offering not just yoga but some motivational and well being coaches to help tackle some of the issues we are all facing. These have included Michelle Zelli and Camilla Sacre-Dellarup. Through one of these Zoom sessions I met up with Sheila, and she has been amazing. Not only helping me with my business networking but also taking me to places to walk. The first walk was to Harlestone Firs and this avenue of trees was spectacular.  I am now walking on Thursday evenings with a small group of like-minded women. It has been a life-changer for me. There have been some long days where I haven’t spoken to anyone except my husband. New to the area and not having met anyone it was isolating but all this has changed and I am beginning to settle in my new home.

 

Last night we walked around Great Brington and Althorp. A quintessential English village with country churchyard and thatched cottages. Althorp House looked splendid in the evening sunshine and the deer in the grounds made it special. I hope the house, or at least the grounds open in July and August so I can visit.

I also have to say a big thank you to Emma Solomon who produces the most amazing bunting for weddings, celebrations and corporate events through her company Emma Bunting. Every day at 11am, Monday to Friday she does a Facebook Live and discusses everyday things about life in lockdown. She always has a good news story to brighten the day amidst all the gloom. She has kept me entertained and provided some much needed (albeit virtual) company for the past few months. With the announcement that face coverings on public transport would be mandatory she decided to make facemasks. There are a range of fabric designs for both adults and children made with good quality cotton. We also have masks covered in skulls!

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With the National Trust opening up the grounds of some properties it has offered us the chance to go and see more of Northamptonshire. On Sunday we went to Canons Ashby and had a picnic by the lake. Nothing can beat lying on your back on a summer’s day  watching the clouds floating across the sky.  Mindfulness in nature. The skies have been empty of planes for so long and now the contrails are beginning to appear again and we will soon hear the sound of passenger jets overhead.

 

There is more traffic on the road and this is beginning to drown out the birds. It is sad that nature is once again ‘disappearing’ amongst modern day life. Spring, despite the lockdown measures, was beautiful and many enjoyed for the first time the sights and sounds of the natural world. It reminds me of the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Everyone talks about the future being a ‘new normal’ but I do wonder if,  in time, the population returns back to the life and habits they had before. Consumerism has already reared its ugly head with people rushing to buy clothes and trainers. I have learned to live with less and my family will be pleased that when I return to the North East there will be a mega clear out of all the things I don’t need. There are boxes of ‘stuff’ in the garage, the contents of which will be gifted to people who will love and cherish them or go with a silent thank you to the tip.

Next weekend we have tickets to visit Stowe and I am really looking forward to visiting another National Trust property, not in Northamptonshire this time but in neighbouring Buckinghamshire.

 

Magnolias

When I was in Australia in 2017, I was fascinated by the number of jacaranda trees in gardens and the stories behind why there were so many.
On my daily walks around the streets of Northampton I have been enchanted by the number of magnolia trees there are in front gardens. They are full grown trees not little bushes and come in a range of colours. I am not sure why they are so popular, but it is warmer ‘down south’ and they seem to thrive here.


It was always going to be a culture shock living somewhere other than Northumberland. The coast and hills have always been on my doorstep and any troubles seeped away when you put one front of the other and took in all the beauty. Northamptonshire is different.

The nearest hills are probably the Chilterns. The nearest beach is a two-hour drive away in Norfolk. The good things about it are that London and Birmingham are both an hour’s train ride away so handy for work meetings.

Northampton, as a town is like many struggling town centres. Retail has been hit by out of town developments and it looks sad and unloved. It was once a thriving. The centre of the boot and shoe industry it has a proud history. I live in an apartment in a converted mansion. Once owned by the Manfield family. How many people remember Manfield shoes? It is still the home of luxury shoe brands; Churchs, Crockett and Jones and Trickers. There is currently a sculpture trail of 12 different types of shoes across the town. I have so far, found six. More on these in a future blog.

I discovered Sywell Country Park on Monday – I was so happy. It is an old reservoir and there are a number of trails you can follow. The sun shone and I was treated to the sound of a woodpecker tapping, a robin singing a song (just for me), blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, nuthatch wrens and peacock butterflies. I also saw a bird I did not recognise and had to research when I got home. A reed bunting. It was a day when I felt both joyful, because the sights and sounds made it clear that Spring had finally arrived and desperately sad, as this would be my last long walk for some time. Sywell Country Park is closed for the foreseeable future.

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We have entered a period of great uncertainty. We are concerned for our family and friends, our work and the aftermath of it all on our lives, the economy and the world. But life will go on. I do feel isolated, but grateful for technology so I can keep in touch with my family and friends. Everyone has different challenges, but we are resilient beings and will find ways to get through this.

Stay safe, well and look after each other.