I'm a lifestyle blogger – blogging on health, writing, books, travel, photography, gardening, nature and simple musings on life. I just so happen to be the recipient of a heart and double transplant and an avid campaigner for organ donation.
We visit Benington Lordship Gardens every year during February when it opens to the public to show off its stunning array of snowdrops. It’s something I always look forward to when we’re in the middle of those cold February days.
There’s something uplifting about seeing that first flush of spring flowers and especially when they are in plentiful displays blanketing the landscape. There are over 200 varieties of snowdrops at Benington. There are also aconites, hellebores, crocuses, winter flowering shrubs as well as beautiful grounds to explore with wonderful views over the Hertfordshire countryside.
In the grounds there’a a very grand neo-norman folly and moat, a walled kitchen garden, sculptures and wildlife pond. The peaceful grounds provide a haven for wildlife. The picturesque village is interesting too, with its duck pond, St Peter’s church and many old thatched roofed buildings. The church holds a series of concerts on Sundays while the gardens are open during February.
For me, snowdrops are a welcome sight as we near the end of winter when nothing much is blooming in the garden and brightening it up. Walking through white blankets of snowdrops is such a delight at this bleak time of year. In British folklore, the snowdrop symbolises hope, which I find very apt. Snowdrops always signify the start of the gardening year beginning to unfold. After the snowdrops fade then the garden begins to bloom more and more and comes back to life and full of colour. Snowdrops are the signal that spring is nearing, the long winter nearly over and sunnier, longer and brighter days are nearly here. Something for us all to look forward to.
With all my health problems this winter it had meant we hadn’t been able to visit the Lake District for a good few months and we’d had to cancel some visits in autumn and over Christmas. When we visited at long last the other week, when we arrived near Milnthorpe and drove past the River Bela, as always I looked over the dry stone walls to see how high the river was.
It was extemely high, reaching the tops of the river bank and spilling over. The following morning there were actually warnings locally not to venture out on the estuary footpaths or down by the coastal path at Arnside, as tidal surges were expected to cause more high waters and flooding. Our neighbour told us, the river and estuary area had been flooded at least three times since we’d last visited.
The Rivers Bela and Kent estuaries meet and join the sea in Morecambe Bay. The last big flood in Milnthorpe was after Storm Desmond in 2015, when houses near the river and the football and cricket ground were flooded. People near the river were preparing for the worst again piling up the sand bags to protect their properties and moving furniture upstairs.
The river and estuary landscapes look so different in flood. The River Bela had lost all its boundaries as it merged with the sea and River Kent. The estuary itself looked like another huge Lake District lake, especially with the Lake District mountains in the back drop. There are usually big pools of water and stretches of sand and sand banks with flocks of interesting birds feeding: on this day just stretches of neverending and unsettled waters.
A drive further around the coast to Sandside was almost inaccessible with sea water lashing and blowing across the main road in the blustery and wild wind. Then the following day, the river had calmed down and you could distinguish it from the estuary once more. Overnight and at low tide, the water in the estuary had receded back to safer levels and there were only sand deposits on the road marking the hazards of the day before.
When I’m out and about in the countryside, there always seems to be something that takes me by surprise. I’ve learned from past experience and now that’s why I always try and remember to take my camera or my phone with me. There’s nothing as annoying as seeing something extra special just before your eyes and not being able to capture the moment forever.
We were out walking by the river Bela on Dallham Tower Estate in Cumbria, when we suddenly saw a pair of ears popping out above the river bank. Who was this hiding down there? Suddenly a pair of young fallow deer appeared, nimbly climbing over the steep banking and happily feeding away and munching on the grass.
We were stopped very quietly in our tracks and lucky to be so near. Rob just happened to have his camera at the ready, so was able to snap a few shots while the deer fed and wandered along by the riverside.
It was one of those captivating and special moments…
Early February and another gorgeous day, so we decided to take a look around Sizergh, a National Trust Estate in Cumbria. We visit here often and in all seasons. It always looks so different during each season and varying weather.
Today we were pleasantly rewarded with the sight of first snowdrops and aconites enjoying the winter sunshine and bursting into bloom. There’s always something special about seeing clusters of snowdrops when we’re still in winter time: there’s a sudden brightness after all the cold, dark and dull days. The bright yellow of the aconites look like they reflect the sun in the sky too: they almost sing out that we’re approaching warmer, longer days. That spring is nearing.
The grounds looked beautiful as we approached the castle this morning. We had a walk through the fields belonging to the estate.
On our way around we spotted the first snowdrops, basking in the sunshine, in full bloom.
Much to our delight, we came across a snowdrop walk in the woodlands… and we found aconites on the woody slopes too!
Then out of the woodlands and down by the pond, we spotted a few more things…
Beautiful views towards the castle, dark winter trees and water silhouetted against the bright blue skies.
Willows bursting into bloom: another sign that spring is near and this scene will look so much different on our next visit.
And then the swans, busy feeding hungrily in the freezing cold waters, which had been coated in layers of thin ice earlier.
The pathway led us back into the lovely countryside again and then of course, we had to finish off with the obligatory hot drinks at the cafe to warm ourselves up again.
January obviously signifies the start of a brand new year with new beginnings and new year resolutions. As January emerges we are still in depths of mid winter – the mornings are dark and the afternoons seem to be cut short as the sun goes down early. Sometimes it’s so cold, dull and dismal that it doesn’t seem to come daylight at all and things can feel a little flat after the buzz and twinkling lights of Christmas.
Now we’ve reached the end of January and after months of bare trees and the bleak colours of winter, there’s something quite magical about spotting those first signs of spring. Although we can’t usually see it at the start of January, January isn’t only the start of the new year, but the start of a nature’s new year too.
Look amongst those black, grey and brown winter palettes and you will spy the first snowdrops emerging – bright white droplets suddenly livening up the landscape. There are daffodil and bluebell shoots pushing through and colourful crocuses, hellebores and aconites emerging. Brilliant yellow stars grace the winter Jasmine as it springs to life again. Spring plants fill the shops: it’s lovely to have daffodils, hyacinths and cyclamen indoors while we wait for spring to fully appear outside.
By the end of January, it’s still winter, but spring feels around the corner now and that fills me with hope and promise. A whole year of nature before me and a whole year of plans and hopes to fulfil.
This January has been a good one for me. Healthwise, I’ve recovered really well from all those bugs and infections I seemed to pick up throughout last autumn. Since the new year started, I’ve become better and better. I’ve managed to build up my exercise capacity through doing yoga, pulmonary rehabilitation exercises and walking and I’m still working on steadily increasing how much activity I can manage each week. I’ve managed to get my lungs working better again and they’re back to the baseline I’d reached back last summer and functioning at nearly 50% again now. I’m now hoping this good spell will continue on and that I can improve my lungs even more.
Better health has meant I’ve been able to get out and about a lot more and catch up with friends and family. I’ve been enjoying walks in the park with Ted and visiting new and old places and taking up my photography and writing again. I’ve felt that life has returned to some normality this January and it’s lovely to be back in the real world once more. Most of these things are simple and ordinary, but feel so special when you’ve been out of action for a while and unable to do them.
Most of all, I’ve had so much precious time with my grandson Freddie. We’d had to keep avoiding each other because of infections, but we’ve both been clear of bugs during January, so Freddie has been able to visit and have sleepovers with us. Best of all, it was Freddie’s first birthday last week, so we had lots of birthday celebrations and it felt one of those very special family milestones, which ended January on a big high. Encouraged by this, I’m looking forward to all the rest of the year ahead of us and watching Freddie taking his first steps next and becoming a toddler.
I’ve also said goodbye to my old mini car this month. I’d had her for over eleven years, but she’d become unreliable and had broken down quite a lot last year. With both the car keep breaking down and my health being so poor last year, I’d stopped driving altogether. This month, I decided to swap my old mini for a new similar model. Now I’m feeling much better and have a reliable car again, I’ve started driving once more.
This January, I’ve begun to regain my independence back, which feels fantastic after relying on others so much when I’ve been poorly. I’m looking forward to enjoying my car even more as the days grow lighter and warmer.
January was also a great month for Rob too. Rob has been directing a play at our local theatre, The Barn in Welwyn Garden City. The play, ’84 Charing Cross Road’ has just finished running this last weekend and was a big success with good reviews and on several nights tickets sold out. The play is a true story and Rob and the cast and crew had a huge surprise on Saturday afternoon when the real life daughter of Frank, one of the main characters, turned up unexpectedly to watch the show.
Frank’s daughter, Sheila, came back stage to meet everyone and I was privileged to be there. She showed us pictures of her family and father and gave us lots of background information about her father and also about the bookshop, its staff and Helene, the other main character. So all in all, it was a great end to the show after months of hard work by all the cast and crew. A lovely finish to the month for both Rob and myself.
And that was January. I’m now looking forward to more good health and good times for February…
We had another glorious winter day. The weather was bitter cold and breezy again, but the skies were clear and blue and it seemed a perfect day to get out in the fresh air again with the camera. I love being outdoors and amongst nature: I find it so healthy and refreshing and it always raises my spirits. Rob and I are always eager to explore local places and new walks with our cocker spaniel, Ted.
When I first moved to this area, I used to come down to Singlers Marsh in Old Welwyn to walk my old staffy bull terrier. She used to love diving in and out of the water and collecting rocks and stones.
It’s been many years since I’ve walked down there, but every time Rob and I visit Old Welwyn, I keep saying we must take a look down by the river again and explore with Ted.
It seemed the perfect day and Old Welwyn is only 5 minutes away from us. I’m still trying to build up my walking capacity and as it was freezing cold, I didn’t want to be venturing too far away. I also knew that the first part of the walk was lovely and level, which is a great help with my breathing.
Singlers Marsh is a wet meadow adjacent to the River Mimram on the northern edge of Old Welwyn in Hertfordshire. The marsh comprises a section of important chalk river and lowland flood meadows. It was quite waterlogged in places being mid winter and I was glad I had my wellingtons on. The grassland, willow scrub and mature trees attract a wide range of wildlife, especially plants of wet meadows, insects and birds including summer visiting ones.
It was a very blustery day and the cold and wind inhibit my breathing quite a bit at the moment, but I managed to walk along the flat ground and follow the first section of the walk and back again. Then we drove on into Old Welwyn village and stopped at one of the pubs there to warm up with a hot dinner – the White Hart.
A lovely look out and we’ll definitely be back to see those spring and summer flowers and hopefully in warmer and less windy weather. With plenty more physio over the next month or two, I’m hoping I’ll be able to walk further and explore a little more.