Water Fowl



A couple of weeks ago Stoatie Towers went up in the world when our ponds were transformed into Ornamental Lakes by the arrival of a pair of Mandarin Ducks. They didn’t stay long but I managed to get a couple of shots through the conservatory window – try and ignore the blurry glass!

The UK population of these ducks are all descended from birds which have either escaped or been released from collections. They’re native to China and it’s a sad fact that our wild mandarins actually outnumber those left in their natural habitat.

I can’t remember ever having seen these out of the water before and I was struck by how lean and elegant they are. They’re pretty fast flyers and set off at a rate of knots when they finally decided to leave.


In February we’d had another unusual visitor on the ponds – a Moorhen. It stuck around for an hour or two and then took off.


We also had the usual pair of Mallards, in March, but this year they only called in for a couple of days. I don’t think they’ve forgotten the dogs pinning the drake against the fence a few years ago. I managed to call them off and he flew off to join his partner, but there were feathers everywhere! The Heron has also been back after the frogs. Of course it chose just when they were beginning to spawn which meant they didn’t have much of a chance to escape and seemed to time it’s arrival for first thing in the morning, when we weren’t around to scare it off, poor froggies.

Wild Garlic

Children drag home through dusk,
week-old snow brown in hedgerows,
a full moon slices the wood.

Somewhere spring is gathering its green,
star gives place to climbing star
(they too have grown older).

I shall not be careless this year:
I shall not forget to see the wild garlic blossom
-as I did last May, and the May before.

Wallace Stevens

The bottom of the garden looks and smells beautiful at the moment!

Alban Eiler


While I’m talking about Wildwood rituals, this is a catch up post about our Alban Eiler Ceremony which we held by the River Bollin in a stretch of old woodland which is part of the Styal Estate.

A couple of us had been out to reconnoitre the area last autumn when the river banks had been lush with plants – we were dodging under gunnera leaves and imagining ourselves in a rainforest. We completely overlooked the fact that in spring the vegetation would have died back. It was only when we arrived that we realised that with no leaves on the trees and no ground cover we would be visible to all and sundry! Fortunately we had timed the ritual for dusk and so we were able to proceed relatively unobserved.

It was great to work with the sound of the river as a backdrop, we ended up on a bank about four foot above the water. The level was so high the usual sandy beaches were nowhere to be found. The plan is to go back at Alban Elfed when hopefully we can perform ritual right on the river shore and float little biodegradable boats away on the current. I’d spent an hour or two learning how to fold flat bottom paper boats and was a bit disappointed we couldn’t use them!


Beltane Greenman

This morning we had our Beltane Ritual on Lindow Moss. The day started out with clear blue skies, but by the time we were parking the cars it had started to drizzle and it kept it up for a few hours. So much for the summer weather!

I spent ten minutes in the garden just before I left, to gather some bits and pieces for the Greenman. I’d spotted a little bit of early may in bloom in a local hedgerow and stopped off to cut a little. There were plenty of buds but only a few flowers, I looked through my photos earlier, and the last time we had swathes of may blossom was in 2009! That year we had headdresses, decorated staves,  a huge display round the altar and plenty to hand out in the ritual itself.

Lindow Moss

Our work to restore the Moss is on-going, although there has been more peat removal and drainage channels dug, the actual area around our ‘grove’ has mysteriously been left alone and the greenery is starting to make it’s way back. I just wish the whole area could return to Nature.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness ? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet ;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

(Gerald Manley Hopkins, Inversnaid)

Lindow Pine

This pine was growing here 5000 years ago!

May Tree

At the entrance to the peat workings there are three little hawthorns. The first was just coming into flower, so I could have saved myself the stress of searching for blossom!

This year’s poem is described as a Druid’s Devotional and is apparently from the Solitary Druid Fellowship, although I can’t find a working link to them. It may originally been used by the ADF.

I breathe in the fire of the sun!

This world is alive, and I am alive with it!

The fire in my heart is a Beltane fire,
A fire raging with passion and purpose!

Today I honour the sun,
And the movement of the earth.
The Earth Mother provides,
And the Sky Father encourages
New life on the land.

This is the moment to remember
That even while I practice in solitude
I am a living being, interconnected with all life.

I am the tree. I am the river.
I am of the earth, growing into fullness,
Supported by the Kindred.

Hail, the fire of Beltane!

dogwood 2


There’s going to be a fair amount of catching up to do on the blog as I try and fill in the missing months! To start here are the remaining photos in the Nature photography challenge I took part in back in February, this was to post a photograph a day for seven days.

As I did nothing but travel to work and back I had to concentrate on the garden, so we had dogwood in the early morning sunshine. There’s something about the slanting light that brings out the vibrant colour.

This was followed by a tiny clump of moss, about 2cm across that was beginning it’s bid to envelope an old pallet at the end of the garden. I do love moss, I think it’s the idea of a miniature world. It reminds me of making tiny gardens in an old seed tray when I was a child. I adore mini flowers too like speedwell and violas, and alpines, oh and tiny succulents … well you get the idea!


The next day we had more really bad weather and I had to find a bit of nature indoors. This amaryllis bulb was a present from a friend, if you look after them amaryllis will flower every year, but there’s no denying that for 11 months out of twelve you will end up looking at two or three floppy leaves, which I always find rather sad. I must admit, that with the odd exception, I do prefer garden plants over houseplants!


The last day I took a shot of the largest of the three oak trees at the bottom of our garden. It’s my guardian tree. I sit against it’s trunk to meditate. It stands over my stone circle, there is a Faery Altar at it’s foot and there are entrances to Other Worlds in it’s roots

I really enjoyed this challenge as it made me change the way I look at things. It’s too easy to get in a rut, and walk around with blinkers on, it was good to see things with fresh eyes.

An Away Day

crewe crem

Yesterday I was allowed out of the Office to attend a meeting, and had a day out at Crewe Cemetery. It’s only the fourth time I’ve been over and it was a chance to see the results of the new revamp. I think it’s an improvement on the original building but it’s pretty stark, it desperately needs some greenery to soften the edges.

The new stonework is a wonderful red sandstone which glitters in the sun. It has some black streaks through it, which provides a bit of interest, although it does remind me of tyre marks. The wall in the background left of centre has a Perspex roof along it’s length on the other side (you can just see the top of it) which is to provide shelter for the mourners. Unfortunately looks like a huge smoking area!

This is what it looked like before, courtesy of the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian:

We just had a few minutes to look around the interior between services and I couldn’t take a lot of pictures. Another reason I was a bit restrained was the fact that I was accompanying a photographer and had to keep getting out of his shots. Plus it was a bit embarrassing snapping away with my camera phone when he had the whole kit and caboodle!

My favourite part of the building were these stained glass windows which have benefited from the extra light now the old canopy has been removed.

stained glass 2

The sunlight was bouncing colour off the newly painted white walls – previously these had been an awful pale green.

stained glass 3

There were some religious windows closer to the nave of the chapel which were the same vibrant colours, but for me were spoiled by the subject matter. Crewe Crematorium still has it’s Christian altar under the window behind the catafalque which I find rather incongruous when most public places try hard to accommodate everyone by having no religious symbolism at all At our Crematorium we got rid of the rather dreary and depressing Christian oil paintings years ago, there’s no altar, and the rather small wooden cross can be shoved in a cupboard if necessary!

stained glass

These nature windows are just fantastic, wonderfully druidic!




Just popping by to say that I saw my first swallows of the year today! Poor things must be wondering if they made a mistake, the weather is perishing.  Although we’ve had bright sun, blue skies and white fluffy clouds, these have alternated all day with heavy hail showers, snow and thunder.

This year I spotted the swallows two days before I did in 2015. There were three of them flying over a farm near Holmes Chapel and coming to rest on the telephone wires –where else! It seems summer has well and truly arrived.

This year’s swallow poem is by an American poet, Leonara Speyer 1872-1956:



They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.


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