Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Early spring along the Thames

Should have been in the snowy valleys of Valdres, Norway, from last Thursday to Sunday, savouring the Hemsing Festival. But alas, my operation scheduled for two Tuesdays earlier, was cancelled without the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital admin even telling me; I only found out because I rang five times to check over confusion about a local or a general anaesthetic (the latter, obviously), to be told 'oh, they should have phoned you'. With the pain from the stent having intensified, and a cold on top of all that, I didn't feel I could cope with the travel. So I stayed at home, mostly rested and made some limited excursions which cost me afterwards but were well worth doing in such freakily warm weather (about which much has been said in a 'this-is-all-very-well-but' way I understand, though I do remember patches like this in mid-Feb from years back). And on Monday morning I had my op; stones and stent all out, so I'm moving more easily now if taking it quietly.

The above is spring tide at Chiswick Mall. Heading back from Chiswick House, I found a group of people, including cyclists with their shoes and socks off, hovering because the river water had come up on to the pavement as well as the road. But I could see it was going out, and waited, pleasantly chatting. Sometimes it's good to be detained by nature.

First springwatches, after various traversals of Brompton Cemetery on the way to and from the hospital, took place the previous week. First a Valentine's morning dream; high time to see what was going on in the walled garden of Fulham Palace. Not much, though the magnolia by the Tudor gateway seemed almost ready to flower

and potatoes were lined up In the glasshouse for planting.

This time we headed out of the south gate, to be faced by a very vocal robin on the fence that separates Fulham Palace gardens from All Saints Church

in the graveyard of which was the first crocus display I came across of any substance.

This one was especially surprising because of the humming of innumerable bees, which proves crocuses/croci are good for more than just saffron. I think the Palace is upping its supply of hives again after a big swarming left it with only one hive last year.

So we proceeded to a lunch in warm sun at the Garden Centre cafe, after which I wandered back to Fulham Palace to pick up a couple of scented geraniums from the cart for the window boxes (others have survived the winter so far). Time to admire the bare shape of the glorious copper beech, complete with nests, before it takes on its full beautiful leaf.

Next day, in the afternoon, to Kew for the first time this year. Its crocus patches used to be by the Victoria Gate, but now they're more extensive around the Temple of Aeolus

and in the arboretum area. From above:

and below:

with catkins to provide some contrasting colour.

More with a moon behind them between the larches of the lake

and same moon above one of the redone vases of the newly-restored Temperate House.

with that unique light of incipient leafing on the trees nearby.

After all this abundance, Chelsea Physic Garden wasn't doing a great deal, and I left in some dudgeon that the wonderful Tangerine Dream Cafe - slightly bohemian but easy going village-institute service, first-class food - had been replaced by some anonymous 'please wait to be seated' franchise; the corporate spirit has spread here (signed a petition some time back, but clearly the new director was not to be swayed). Much of the interest was in hangers-on from last summer and autumn - the pomegranates by the Swan Walk gate, being frequented by a squirrel,

a lone teasel with a backdrop of eucalyptus

and a sunflower husk facing the first flowering magnolia (M. denudata) I saw this year.

A frond of Dicksonia antarctica unfurling

and dwarf irises rather oddly displayed in an open-air cabinet were catching the light

while there was brilliant sunshine by the pond near Sir Hans Sloane's statue, the clam shells brought back from the voyage of Captain Cook's Endeavour.

Rather more classical ornamentation in what felt, in reality, like a really spooky late afternoon light at Chiswick House gardens the following afternoon

and more modest crocus displays than at Kew, but with a Palladian backdrop, and for free.

Camellias are already profuse in the Grade 1 listed, Lottery Fund-restored greenhouse (March is the official display month).

First coot nesting rather early on the lake.

The ring-necked parakeets which have spread upstream at least as far as Kensington Gardens are here too, as well as at Kew (top), and kissing on a willow by the Thames. Big debates going on now about culling, but still, to see them is as deceptively exotic as...high temperatures in February.

And so back as the sun set over Chiswick's church and brewery

with signs of spring life in some of the other gardens of Chiswick Mall

and another magnolia partly bloomed in front of the last house before the passageway with the Dove pub in it.

A new haunt discovered the following day when we attended a special commemoration of the great Blondin at Kensal Green Cemetery. But that's for another photojournal.


Maev Kennedy said...

Beautiful, love the fact that we were both hovering on the edge of that same flood in that absurd Cuyp light. And I hadn't been to the Physic Garden yet this year so I didn't realise the bloody idiots had corporated the lovely cafe, which suited the gently eccentric character of the garden so well...

We're two bends upstream from Kew, on the verdant banks of the river Crane - the old photographs before they imprisoned it in a concrete culvert would make you weep - and we have flocks of the jolly, raucous, pretty parakeets. Why would anyone cull them, only to allow magpies even greater dominance?

David said...

Too many birds are being killed off in the UK for dubious reasons, I read last week; the figures are alarming.

You're so right about the nature of Tangerine Dream. They'd also removed all bar one of the outside tables, probably to focus their silly seating practice. I'm so huffy about it I may not bother to renew my membership. After all. Fulham Palace and its walled garden fulfil most of the needs formerly met by CPG.

'Cuyp light' is spot on, and I wouldn't have thought of it.

Susan said...

So glad you alerted me of this post, as I didn’t spot it in my feed reader (they keep redesigning it and making it worse—much, I might add, like what has happened at the Chelsea Physic Garden. So glad we had a chance to sample Tangerine Dream before it disappeared.) Your photo post is glorious, gives one heart that spring will come not too long from now where we are.

David said...

Ah, well, I do it the laborious way of popping over occasionally to my handful of favourite blogs to see what's up. Happy memories of you, your J (mine was at work, I think) and me having one of TG's very delicious lunches. No idea what the food's like now, out of sheer bloody-mindedness I'm not going to patronise the cafe any more. What I saw of an artificial piled-up display inside didn't look promising. And the cake's CAN'T be as good - theirs were the best I ever tasted in London.

Anyway, spring retreated and it's now very average February weather with a spot of blossom and magnolias out here and there.

Deborah vdB said...

Glad you are over op and beginning to feel better. I've just been reading your Leonardo Post. I, like you, enjoy the drawings much more...though I do like most of the paintings. Must take issue with you on one point. I don't like the the so-called 'Lady with Ermine'. It is indisputably not an ermine, but a far more loathesome ferret.They are nasty bity untrustworthy beasts, far bigger than ermine. which are stoats. I do not like them one bit, so I don't like this painting. I'm sure it as always called an ermine for this very reason.

David said...

Well, I did say it was subjective - as is your reason for disliking the ferret. Can't resist that terrible (but suitable for children) joke: what's the difference between a weasel and a stoat? A weasel's weaselly recognised, whereas a stoat's stoatally different.