Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Flowers in Dorset

The third week of April found me on a flight home to England to spend a couple of weeks with Mum, explore, and see my beloved bluebells, which should be blooming as I arrived. I had a wonderful flight, an empty seat next to me piled high with pillows and blankets that, despite looking comfortably enticing, failed to coax me into a sleep on my nighttime flight. So I watched movies, read a book and studied the wing protruding from the plane body under my window. I always marvel at take off how these protuberances manage to stay attached to the aircraft as they shake, vibrate and rattle, visibly bending against the G-force as we force ourselves up into the clouds. Awesome!
As we approached Heathrow, I looked down to the patchwork of fields lined with hedges, emerald green with the newness of spring, and occasional patches of bright yellow rape beginning to bloom. No McMansions to be seen anywhere, just solid brick and stone houses, many that had stood for hundreds of years and would last a good few more. It was good to be back in the homeland.
Mum was waiting for me when my coach pulled into Ringwood and as soon as cases were stowed we walked into town for lunch. Fish and chips and a pot of tea in a country pub with a thatched roof, not a bad start to the trip. Yet it was nice to get to bed that night, the soft cooing of the wood pigeons in the trees outside lulling me to sleep.
It was Sunday the next day and Mum had booked us into a popular local restaurant, Pamphill Cafe. 
 There's an amazing butchers here with so much local proper bacon on display that I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The little gift shop was also loaded with goodies and I made my first purchases that would start to fill my suitcases for the trip back to America.
 We had come here for the traditional roast dinner, and I was not disappointed.
Accompanied by a local Dorset Knob beer my lunch was delicious. Succulent roast beef with a perfectly crispy Yorkshire pudding and fresh veggies, the only sadness experienced was my inability to be able to stuff a homemade desert down too.
We left with bursting waistbands and deciding that a walk would be most beneficial, so jumping into the car we wound our way along country lanes to the River Stour.
The hedgerows were filled with spring flowers and the buds of trees were bursting open in the sunlight. Forget-me-nots, primroses, bluebells and many others that I couldn't identify nestled on the grassy green banks and it felt as though we were driving through the John Gubbins painting called Primrose Bank.
Standing on the Eye Bridge looking down on the River Stour.
We walked a loop of about 3 miles and passed this young lad who I only just managed to snatch a photo of. He had strung together a string of dandelions instead of the usual daisies. He made me smile, it was so nice to see this instead of him walking along with his head bowed over a mobile phone.
Pussy willow and rape fields were blooming along the path. We came across a wonderfully carved wooden otter, there are many real ones in the water.
After our walk we drove back into Pamphill to look at St Stephen's church. Built in 1907, it's a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, one of my favorite periods. Back in the 80's Gothic decor was all the rage in England and I clearly remember looking at house design magazines and desperately wanting the outrageously priced carved wooden kitchen cabinets.
We were extremely fortunate to catch one of the wardens leaving the church who very kindly unlocked the door so we could have a quick look round inside.
It was beautiful, intricately carved pews from local oak trees,a font made from marble and alabaster, and gothic style stained glass depicting scenes of Jesus with the Bankes family. More details can be found here.
St Stephen and a small boy, carved in the likeness of the son of the Bankes, who bequeathed money to fund the building of the church.
Mum at the kissing gate at the back of the church with the path behind her leading to a bluebell wood.
Other local woods were filled with people enjoying the beauty and scent of these flowers but the warden had directed us to this little area that not many others were privy to, so I was ecstatic to walk down the hill and find we had the place to ourselves. These are to me the most beautiful flowers in the world and it's been 18 years since I last saw them so I was quite overwhelmed at this magical show nature had put on. I had to just stand and savor for a few minutes, drinking in the spectacular scene with my eyes, and imprinting it on my memory forever. It was nearly sunset and the blues were deep and vibrant, shadows and the last sun beams danced as the breeze whipped the branches gently back and forth. I thought I was in heaven.
There were a few white bells and a few pale pink ones too in the midst of the azures and purples. This was a true English bluebell wood. There are some areas which are slowly being invaded with the Spanish bluebell, a fast growing usurper, which is paler in color and holds its bell flowers on an upright stem rather than the drooping nodding stem which we Englanders prefer.
I worked fast with my camera, trying to capture as many images as possible in the fading light. It was too early for sunset yet it was getting darker in the woods, we wondered if a storm was approaching. We left and walked back to the car, then drove towards the New Forest on our way home.
I yelled in excitement at spotting this, getting Mum to stop on the side of the narrow road while I quickly grabbed a couple of photos. How cool to discover an abandoned telephone box! There were even cobwebs inside and I loved the light shining through the glass at the top. Upon closer inspection I realized that the post box was still in use despite a curtain of ivy threatening to completely cover it.
We trundled through little lanes enjoying the high banks and tiny fields, songbirds filling the air with trills and tweets. Everything was so vibrant and fresh, the landscape was alive with spring colors. But as we rounded a few turns and twists the lush scenery gave way to the gorse covered open moors of the New Forest.
I jumped out of the car so quickly these cows were gobsmacked, stopping in mid mouthfuls to stare at me. Along with the ponies they roam wild and free out here, crossing the roads at leisure. Motorists have to drive slowly, keeping their wits about them. The gorse was like shining gold against the dark heavy sky. I had to take quite a few photos before I managed a close up that was in focus, it was very windy out here.
We had crammed quite a lot into our afternoon, so was glad to finally pull up at Mum's house and put the kettle on for a pot of tea. We succeeded in consuming a large number of these during my stay!
A sign I spotted in Ringwood, love the English humor. And yes, hooray for beer!

No comments: