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:
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.