The End of Spring 2017

First, I must apologise. Lambing finished in mid-April and since then I’ve had my nose pressed firmly to the grindstone, working through alterations and corrections to my latest book for Penguin (which will be published in March 2018). I’m also busy on the farm (we shear next week) and am promoting The Way, The Truth and The Deadwhich was published on May 17th (copies are now being sent out to subscribers). And then to cap it all, my left hip joint has become painful and an X-ray in late April showed it to be very worn. Can’t think why. My physiotherapist at Wisbech Hospital is recommending that I have a replacement. She says (and she was smiling broadly at the time) that I shouldn’t have spent fifty years on my hands and knees, or swinging mattocks and certainly not pushing fully laden wheelbarrows up steep spoil-heaps. Oh well, at least we all revived ourselves in the evening with vast volumes of beer. Happy days! But now I’ve got to pay for them. I gather hip joint replacements are becoming far more common, if not actually routine: apparently over 70,000 operations were performed on the NHS last year. I also gather that the six weeks after surgery are crucially important, so I’ll be following the physio’s instructions to the letter

But enough about me: tomorrow is the General Election and it seems the country is going completely barmy, with politicians who live on another planet and deranged murderers rampaging through our streets, picking on defenceless youngsters. Sanity and humour seem to have flown out of the window. Forget fake news: image, self-delusion and irrelevance are the new realities. So it seems to me that if you want to retain a grip on the real world, I suggest you turn off the television, the radio and above all, the phone, laptop or iPad, and then step out of doors. Take a deep breath. Listen to the birdsong. Those birds are tweeting more good sense than those highly-paid numbskulls in Westminster – or indeed the biggest idiot of the lot, in Washington. I’m lucky enough to have a lovely garden, but if you don’t, I suggest you take a long walk in a park or the country. Anything rather than the media. And if you’re a resident of the UK: despite the insanity of the current situation, I do hope you voted! Democracy, despite its many weaknesses is still by far and away the most humane system of governance that society has ever evolved. And who knows, one day the UK might abandon the first-past-the-post system, which worked quite well in the Victorian era…

By the time this post gets published, we will be in post-election mode, which for me at least, will mean a stunned sense of unreality, because whatever happens, it is bound to be barmy: Corbyn or Hard Brexit. La-La Cake or Crucifixion. So let’s instead take a leisurely stroll through our garden in May, the last month of spring. I took the photos on the 10th and the 27th, both warm sunny days. And now it’s June and the sun has vanished. There are strong winds from the north-west and yesterday it rained for 18 hours. Ah, the joys of an English summer! I do hope you enjoy your stroll.

Nut Walk

A view along the Nut Walk with the bluebells still in flower. I think it looks better now that we have pruned the hazel bushes higher. It gives a more arched, almost church-like feel. Or is that being a bit pretentious?

Long Border

The Long Border in early May. I love the subtlety of the many hues of green in plants that are still fresh, or have only just come into leaf. Even the grass looks gorgeous – reminds me of summers spent in Ireland, justly called the Emerald Isle (but you have to put up with the ceaseless rain. Doubtless that’s why they invented Guinness).

House wisteria

Although the house we built in 1995 isn’t as ugly as some of the massive monsters that now blight our countryside, towns and cities, most architecture can be improved by a vigorous wisteria. And this year ours was particularly floriferous.

Flag Iris

We dug the pond to take run-off from the house roof and I planted these yellow-flowered flag irises around its fringes in honour of Flag Fen. I found them in a nearby dyke, where they have since been sprayed to extinction. My ones are only just under control, but even so, they always look gorgeous.


In some of the smartest gardens it is fashionable to have an arranged pile of logs and call it a Stumpery. To my sensitive ear that’s a bit too close to Trumpery. So this is our Loggery. It’s made of willow logs, which are being pecked by woodpeckers and bored by beetles. Already (and it’s starting its third summer) it’s a mini nature-reserve.

Long Walk

This is the Long Walk, which skirts the Rose Garden and leads into the Serpentine Walk. The roses were very early this year and the pink hybrid musk ‘Cornelia’ is looking particularly good – and smells gorgeous.

Steps Path

And finally, to the Front Garden and the Steps Path, which we created a couple of years ago and is now starting to come into its own. As I write, the lupins outside my office window are looking a bit tatty and will need another cut-back soon, or else they will overshadow the peonies, which are starting to look splendid. Herbaceous gardening can be a high-maintenance business.

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