Beautiful Benington

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.

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Snowdrops, Swans and Sizergh

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.

That Was January

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.

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Out with the old, time for a new car

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.

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The cast with Sheila, Frank’s daughter, in the centre

And that was January. I’m now looking forward to more good health and good times for February…

How was your January?