Meadow cranesbill

One of the plants she wants to encourage is meadow cranesbill, a wild geranium

DailyToast

I was walking through the countryside near our home today, and had a conversation with a man walking his dog. He mentioned that, like us, he and his wife moved into the area earlier this year. His wife is cultivating an area of wild flowers and hoping to attract bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects; one of the plants she wants to encourage is meadow cranesbill, a wild geranium. It’s at its best this time of year, and very pretty.

Photo of a wild bee on a cranesbill flower
A wild bee on a meadow cranesbill flower

On my way home after our conversation I spotted a bee working some cranesbill flowers, and stopped to take the photo above (click for a larger version).

There is such beauty in the natural world; living amongst it is a great privilege, one that we often overlook. This world deserves to be cared for; what can you do to look after your local area? There’s always some positive action you might take, whether you live in a rural area or in the heart of a city.

A Walk in the Cotswolds

A gentle stroll brought us to this stunning view.

DailyToast

Setting up a new home becomes a bit much eventually, so Donna and I decided to take a break and go for a walk. We chose part of the Cotswold scarp near Leckhampton, and a gentle stroll brought us to this stunning view north over Cheltenham with the Malvern Hills in the distance (about 30 miles away). The ‘flying saucer’ in the upper-left is GCHQ.

IMG_5751-Mod01

There was a heavy fragrance wafting from a nearby field of oilseed rape, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all seemed right with the world. What a place! Standing here on the steep north-western edge of the Cotswolds, about 300 m above the Severn Vale below, we had this amazing vista. But turning round and looking the other way revealed rolling farmland and the field of fragrant, vivid yellow rape.

IMG_5740-Mod01

Then we drove on to Crickley Hill Country Park for coffees, and amongst the grass on the hilltop were cowslips in abundance, another yellow flower that grows wild in most of England, wild and pretty but so much less showy than the farmed rape.

IMG_5764-Mod01

We love the Cotswolds! Glad to be living here, but back to unpacking boxes…

Moving House

DailyToast

Well, we did it. We moved from our old home in St Neots, to a small house in Stratton. The old village of Stratton is on the northern edge of Cirencester, mostly between the roads to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The 18th of April was the big day. We drove down to Cirencester, collected the keys to our new home, and our furniture and boxes of possessions arrived the following day. And I do mean boxes – and boxes – and more boxes – and yet more boxes! The garage is packed to bursting, the house is full of clutter, but we’re sorting through it all and making progress. The lounge is tidy now, the kitchen is functional, and we should have a little more time from now on to explore the area and begin to live our lives again.

Stratton
Click the map to expand and scroll

I’ll be writing again soon to tell you more about the house, the town and the countryside all around.

I love the European Union

DailyToast

Mark Rice-Oxley writes a wonderful piece in the Guardian today, ‘The EU is Sixty‘, in which he enthuses about the wine, the food, the freedom from border checks and visas, and so much more. In particular he writes ‘[The EU] helped my generation fall in love with
Europe’.

Paris1964Not just your generation, Mark. I’ll be 69 next birthday, and I well remember a school trip to Paris in 1964. A passport was necessary and there were about 13 Francs to the Pound. The photo is taken from a street photographer’s post card of our party magically created while we toured the palace and gardens of Versailles.

We had a wonderful week, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Louvre, the book and picture sellers along the banks of the Seine, getting lost on my own and having to ask the way in French, ‘Ou se trouve la Place de la Republique, s’il vous plait?’ Until I visited Paris on that school trip, Europe was a mysterious place that was far away and not very real. For me, Europe became a real place where trees grew, people lived – it was just like home but different in so many interesting ways.

For me, the EU is a glorious and precious thing. Far from perfect, of course, yet worth preserving. I heartily wish that the UK would remain in the EU and influence it for good. I wish we could see it as a partnership. We Brits are split in our views on this, more or less 50-50. Oh, OK, nearly 52-48 if we have to be pedantic about it, but certainly not the ‘overwhelming majority’ for leave that we hear about sometimes.

I hope we can remain well integrated and on good terms with our neighbours. Half of us wanted that nine months ago. Half of us still do.

Lechlade

Breakfast is served a couple of steps away across a stone-paved courtyard.

DailyToast

Lechlade is a delightful Cotswold town on the River Thames; in fact, it sits close to the highest navigable point and the Thames and Severn Canal joins the Thames at Inglesham Lock, just slightly further upstream.

ChJe20160728au-mod01

We stayed in a tiny apartment called ‘The Hayloft‘. Downstairs contains a double bed and an easy chair, upstairs has a loo, hand basin and a shower. Simple and very, very tiny, but really all you need if you’re planning to be out all day as we were. Breakfast is included in the price (we had two nights) and is served in ‘Vera’s Kitchen‘ a couple of steps away across a stone-paved courtyard. The food was lovely; I chose their ‘Cotswold Full English’ which was delicious and kept me going all day. They offer plenty of lighter alternatives.

The photo above is a typical scene, the living green of trees and gardens contrasting with the honey and brick of the buildings and also with the modern traffic in the old streets. We enjoyed our stay in this hospitable little corner of the Cotswolds. There are pleasant walks, pub lawns running down to the river, and some nice places to eat.

A Royal Scarecrow

The inhabitants of Thorganby knew that Her Majesty would be amused.

DailyToast

Just over a month ago I was in the North Yorkshire village of Thorganby; it was during the celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday and many of the gardens had been decorated with scarecrows on this theme. There were some great examples, this one is not necessarily the best but it is certainly typical.

Scarecrow

It seems to me that royal scarecrows display the British at their very best. There’s something self-deprecatingly UK about the royal scarecrows. Try this in almost any other country (substitute President for Queen if required) and it might be regarded as offensive, disloyal, and even a crime.

But the inhabitants of Thorganby knew that Her Majesty would be amused by their scarecrows. It’s just so very British  to mix fun and occasion in ways that other nations tend not to do. Do you remember the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London? If not, see the highlights again on YouTube, or even the entire thing if you like.

Maybe now, in this time of change and uncertainty following a referendum vote to leave the EU, we can just stop for a moment and remember that there’s plenty of good stuff going on as well. If you live in these islands where Royal scarecrows are an example of our unique quirkiness, smile! If you live elsewhere but love this aspect of our culture, smile! And if you think we’re just plain mad, you are entitled to your opinion. We’d probably use the word ‘bonkers’ for that.

(You can see earlier ‘Daily Toast’ articles at cj-daily.blogspot.com)