Start of Summer
This is the time of year when ‘firsts’ and favourites come thick and fast and it is easy to forget to be mindful and take it all for granted. The Japanese natural calendar marks this past season as ‘the beginning of summer’. Britain’s calendar keeps this until the Solstice at the end of June but I am going with now! Maybe I am just impatient. Maybe it is the harbour walks barefoot and the year’s first swim that convince me that it’s close enough.
In the courtyard the large frogs have been joined by a multitude of tiny frogs. I celebrate them for eating the slugs! The last of the tulips are fading and give way to the plethora of summer. I can see the first heads of allium waiting to take their place.
Out in the larger gardens the lilacs are in flower followed closely by the never to be out done laburnums. The elderflower a are only just starting but we await them eagerly to start preserving. Even the horse chestnuts are in flower. Their stately blooms remind me of the queen’s hat perched on the grand dame’s head.
In the wild the Night Jars curr on the heath and look out for the Montagu’s Harrier, they are a rare special sight these days.
On the allotment things are coming on by leaps and bounds the last two weeks, especially the weeds! In the cutting garden things have diversified from tulips only to ranunculus, white verbascum, iris, cerinthe, and red scabious.
We also spent a long Saturday digging over and building a windbreak for the tomatoes. We think it looks whimsical using scavenged marsh drift wood to keep costs down. Very pleased to keep things super-local. And super-economical!
Sharrington strawberries are out! And asparagus! The first true seasonal specialties! What a treat. Can’t wait for our own strawberries to ripen. Well, here’s to the start of the summer season!
The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls.
This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender.
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.
Holidays: Mothering Sunday, Easter
Events: East Ruston old vicarage- Mother’s Day; Chestnut Farm – Snow Drop Walk
Beginning of Spring
This time of year can have quite unpredictable weather. Year to year, and even day to day. The Japanese calendar labels this time with respect to rain water. While rain certainly features, I would describe the last two weeks as, changeable. One day I can find the warm earth under my hands in the garden, followed by snow and hail the next.
The geese continue to migrate, and birdsong can be heard in the afternoons. The current season from March 1-5 is named ‘Grass sprouts, trees bud’ on the 72 Season calendar and I couldn’t agree more. What a wonderful site, the new growth on trees. In the hedges the blackthorn is in blossom and on the verge the alexanders are starting to bud.
In the garden when I look around it does not surprise me the yellow and purple are the colors of Easter. The Grape hyacinths and Anenome blanda are out in the courtyard. And on the road sides is another plant common this time of year that I just call ‘purples’. Their lack of official name does not diminish the joy they give when you see them. Meanwhile, in the cutting garden the first Daffodils have bloomed and are now adorning my dining room table.
Work in the allotment has begun in earnest. Tomatoes, Marigolds, and Leeks are going through the propagator. The earth is warming and we have started digging over the scanty winter weeds before they take hold. It is just too tempting to plant seeds on warm days. After digging over last years cosmo bed I scattered Nigella “White lady” seeds, only to have it snow the following day! All this work justifies a trip to the Cley Deli for their delicious pies for a hearty lunch, and a slice of their cake to follow. In the evenings, beef seasoned for a week and slow cooked for 8 hours, is a weekend treat.
When we aren’t scratching around in dirt, the weekends find us on long walks with a warm breeze, but still dressed for winter.
The kayak comes back into regular use and gives us an upclose look the the birdlife on the marsh. As the boating season approaches, mooring maintenance becomes a priority in preparation.
I am filled with anticipation of warm weather and new life.
Events: Daffodil and Snowdrop Walks at Bagthorpe Hall 22/2 and Horsted House 21/2
Holidays: St. David’s Day, March 1st.
The current season is Risshun or “start of spring” on the ancient Japanese seasonal calendar. This traditionally marked the New Year on the Japanese lunar calendar and seems an appropriate place to start for our 24 Seasons of Blakeney posts. At first “Spring” sounded overly optimistic for Norfolk this week, but on further reading is suggests that we are currently at peak cold and that things may gradually warm from here on in. Perhaps “spring coming” is closer to the truth. For our calendar I’ve decided on “Bright Cold” for Norfolk at this time of year.
The wild plum blossom in the hedgerow this time of year always makes me happy, and a bit nervous for their delicate blooms. But what a sign of the promise of Spring!
For several years in a row now we have gone down to the dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe for a winter walk on a bright sunny day. Mid afternoon has a lovely golden glow with the angle of the sun low in the sky. In photos it looks summer-bright, and aside from our wooly hats it could be mistaken for late afternoon in June. The angle also produces some lovely purple dawns this time of year and they are getting earlier. The pink-footed geese which this coast is known for, have been making their migration, with thousands in the sky. This year we have had a lot of weather from the south-west, where normally our winter winds are fixed in the North, so Snettisham has seen fewer than usual.
Tuesday I felt the first warmth in the sun for a long time while doing my semi-annual clean up of the courtyard. The snow drops and Tet a Tet bloomed while the heads of our mixed large narcissa pushed up among them. The allotment year has also started with the first chilli, tomato, and leek seeds going into the propagator.
Marek headed out for the first kayak of the season on a bright crisp morning. Pubs remain a season staple after our chilly walks, while root vegetables, lentils, and roasts make up most of our dinners. And of course Pancake day is another highlight! We are lucky enough to still have carrots from the allotment and winter greens like perpetual spinach to tide us over until spring’s first flush of new produce.
Events: Lexham Hall snowdrop walk 8/2 and 15/2
Holidays: Valentine’s Day 14/2
I have used italics to highlight the main features of the season.
What does this time of year mean to you? We welcome all ideas to add to this Norfolk Calendar!
“A year of nature, food and tradition seen through the ancient Japanese calendar… in which the year is divided into 24 and then 72 separate seasons.”
Marek introduced me to a new app this week and it immediately captured my imagination.
72 Seasons is a new app by the Utsukushii Kurashikata Institute. The micro-seasons are depicted using photographs, illustrations, haiku poems and seasonal food. These come together to illustrate the subtle change in the natural world. The app follows path of the sun as seen from earth, 360 degrees divided into 24 seasons, each representing a 15-degree section and lasting about 15 days.
The app is beautifully done and inspires reflection on your own life. I realised that we too follow a natural calendar here on the North Norfolk coast, or anywhere you live in tune with nature. I have long thought of certain times of year as, say, “hollyhock season”, “sea lavender season”, and “start of summer visitors season”. So I have decided to make my own version of this calendar to describe our personal journey living in Blakeney. The dates given are slightly flexible based on my research and provide a loose structure. Obviously each year is different but regardless of the precise date or order of events these are time markers in the natural world for all to see.