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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Yew (Taxus baccata)
( Click to enlarge)

This is the beautiful and majestic Yew tree that stands in the grounds of Saint Paul's church at Hunwick, a village about two miles from where I live now. My parents were married in this church, my brother and I were christened in it and many family funerals have taken place here. In fact, that was the reason for my visit today, to lay wreaths on the graves of family members.

It was bitterly cold but the church and the cemetery looked gorgeous amidst the swirling snow . In the older part of the cemetery, round the church, there are lots of very old trees and the blackbirds were poking about in the undergrowth for unsuspecting (probably sleeping) insects.

I'm smiling to myself as you'll probably wonder why I've put the heading, 'Happy New Year' with a photo of gravestones underneath! I wasn't taking a photo of the stones, interesting as they are, but of the Yew tree that stands sentinel to the church. To pagan civilisations, especially the Celts, Yew trees were (and still are) regarded as a sacred tree. To the Celts it's magical and a means of connecting to the otherworld, to ancestors gone before. It's no accident that churches stand next to a Yew tree and in many cases, a circle of Yew trees, a Druid grove. The trees often existed long before the church was built, planted there by members from ancient faiths.

The Yew is a tree symbolic of healing, transformation, death and rebirth ....... and so I find it an appropriate symbol for the beginning of a whole new year. Here is a beautiful passage written by Glennie Kindred:

"The knowledge we gain from the Yew makes it an extremely important tree for healing. It can help us overcome our fear of our own death and, by freeing us from this fear, bring us a greater stillness in our lives. Death heralds the end of something. It may be a physical death, or the death of our old selves, an old way of life or an old way of looking at things. Each end, each death, is a new beginning, hope, future and transformation. Sometimes things need to end or die before the new can begin, and understanding rebirth always requires seeing beyond our limitations."

To read more Glennie's words, click here.

The beautiful gates at the side entrance to Saint Paul's Church, Hunwick, County Durham
(Click to enlarge)

Wishing you Happiness, Health and Prosperity!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Pit Bank

See the group of poplar trees just to the right of the centre of the photograph? Those trees are at the bottom of my garden. :) From the window of my 'computer room' (that's posh for spare room!), I can look out and see this hill. Up until about four years ago the farmer let his cattle feed here. I used to love looking over to see the gentle cows make their way back to the farm for milking and in the evenings for shelter. It was reassuring to see them back on the hillside early next morning.

Durham County Council acquired the land and, while I miss the cattle, the Woodland Trust worked with local schoolchildren to plant a number of young deciduous woodland trees on various sections of the bank so, in the near future, this will provide a good habitat for our wildlife and it will be nice to watch the trees as they grow.

The top of the 'pit bank', Willington, County Durham (click on photo to enlarge)

The farmer now keeps his cattle on land nearer the farm, just over the brow of the hill. I took a walk up there today to take a photograph of them but they weren't there. With the heavy snowfalls we've been having during the past couple of weeks, they're probably being kept in the barn for shelter and convenience of feeding. So I googled a picture from the internet instead!

A happy cow picture

"From my window I can see a field,

a pleasant pastoral picture.

I look again

and there they are,

beasts of stature.

I smile

as they concentrate intently on their meal of green.

It seems

they have no cares.....

so serene.

At dusk

when they've had their fill

I gaze after them

as, one by one,

they stroll over the brow of the hill......

and make their way home"

(by me ~ 2004, or thereabouts)

The pit heap at Willington, County Durham circa 1949

(photograph courtesy of Durham County Council)

This photograph shows the spoils from the coal mine in the town. It formed an enormous double-topped heap. The mine was closed in 1965 and was subsequently landscaped. It's amazing to think that this structure that overshadowed the town is now the gently sloping hill in the photograph at the top of the page. It's such a lovely place to be and very popular with people walking their dogs. I sometimes forget that under that turf and soil, men and young boys had their lives taken from them while at work, that the development and growth of our town was because of the coal found deep underground.

It's because of the pit heap that our town prospered during the 19th Century and it's due to thoughtful reclaimation that it provides a home for all sorts of wild mammals and birds....... and I'm not talking about those mammals who have evolved to grasp a tin of larger and take off up the pit bank for a bevy, though they too exist!

When the snow melts and the cows get back out into the fields, I'll take a walk up the pit bank and over the brow of the hill to take a photograph for you. :)

To see more stunning animal artwork by Sandy, click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas greetings from ye merrye olde England

Christmas Greetings!

Happy Christmas to all you bloggers and thank you so much for the messages you sent while I've been a.w.o.l. I have no excuses for my absence except......

while being unnaturally busy,
got myself in a tizzy!
..... and then of course, my computer finally gave up the ghost after seven years of slooooooooow, but faithful service. Not to worry, I can use the daughter's..... and so I did..... for a few days, until hers decided to join mine in the spiritual world for decrepit computers! However, I'm now sitting here in front of a lovely brand new desktop and it's fantastic. Peace and contentment once more reigns in our little household!
All your messages gave me a lovely warm buzz....... and someone even wrote a special limerick for me. Mr Bennet, I hope you wont mind me reproducing it here. ;)

I once knew a lass name of Lesley
who blogged about blooms and wee beasties
we had become email chums
she has lovely green thumbs
she's missing north-south-east and westy!
That made me grin from ear to ear and I made a promise to write a blog post by the weekend...... it was at that point my old computer decided "no more." But here I am and I hope you're all having a lovely time this Christmas Eve, however you are spending it.

At the moment, the whole of the UK..... and our little garden is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Here are some photographs I took this morning from behind the patio window in the warmth of the sitting-room.

The birds are perched on the huge poplar trees, watching and waiting for me to put out more food for them

Using the zoom lens, here they are a bit closer

Who's watching who? Robin, posing on a snow covered table on the patio

Mr Jackdaw on the same table

"Ever felt like you're being watched?" he says, moving further away to the top of the arch

* Happy Christmas everyone, enjoy yourself and take care *