Nature, friends & thought provocation

Something about (not the National Trust) Berrington Hall inspires me to cast off my shoes and meander around barefoot – which today resulted in me discovering that burrs attach to feet (mine, anyway) as well as clothing! Walking around barefoot isn’t anything particularly unusual for me but having such stunning and awe-inspiring grounds to explore is an utter gift. Thank you, Universe!

This is my third visit to Berrington and each one has been utterly unique. My first (and thus far this one too) I have found myself basking in the most glorious sunshine. I have yet to find anything quite so wonderful as gardening here with the sun beating down. There’s such a history here – not just of the house and grounds, but of the community that has evolved and changed to reach where it is today. I’ve had some great chats since arriving this time around with one of the community members who is particularly active in increasing the amount of food grown on site – and today discovered from him that beyond the north wall of the Walled Garden is where the old orchard is. Very few of the orchard trees have survived but with so much other land to tend this area has been left very much to its own devices and at this time of year remains accessible (in the summer months it becomes, I’ve been told, completely impassable courtesy of our old f(r)iend, brambles). But not just accessible: absolutely stunning.

Walking between some wonderful mature trees, as well as many young whips that have self-seeded, drinking in the beauty of the snowdrops (and, indeed, the other yellow flowers which are currently blooming in the ground cover) and spying all the bits of dead branches that remain suspended in the oddest places, I have an overwhelming sense of my utter love of woodlands – especially the woodland edge. It’s not a huge area, between the Walled Garden and the road, but it’s incredibly rich at the moment in a variety of plants and species – some cultivated, others wind blown – and like such a secret land-that-time-forgot. Wandering around I found myself wondering about ways to keep the gorgeous feel there is to it while making it more accessible. And thinking that Woodland Management was probably a good area to add to my hit-list to learn more about and get more experience of. Having the sunshine streaming through the trees as it gently lowered through the sky added even more to the atmosphere.

This visit was prompted by an invite to a party the community were hosting last night (for which, courtesy of being in holiday mode and having spent a good few hours digging yesterday, I found myself positively dosy and not particularly party-esque. Well done, me) which I turned into an extended visit to Shrewsbury / Oswestry. I started off visiting some friends in their absolutely wonderful new home (the home being made all the more wonderful by its incredibly diverse and full-of-unexpected-brilliance garden) and found myself on an apple tree pruning / grafting day at a community orchard just outside Oswestry. I’ve done several years worth of pruning on my folks’ apple trees in Oxfordshire without much instruction so to have a day exploring the whys and wherefores of pruning was great. Even better was being assured by our very knowledgeable tutor (who describes himself as an orchardist which I think is just brilliant – mainly because I’d never heard of an orchardist before, but also because he really does know his stuff) that, fundamentally, it’s pretty hard to kill an apple tree through pruning. Phew! We didn’t get to do any actual grafting but talked through how it works (including two different types of grafting – “budding” and “whip and tongue”) and, at least for now, I think the pruning will be of most immediate use.

Friday evening I ended up at an incredibly thought provoking talk by someone I used to do some voluntary work alongside, back in former life that now feels like it was in a different time-space continuum (pre-university). My primary motivation for going had been to say hello after not having seen each other for well over a decade, but I got so much more from the evening – not least a real wake up call to myself that yes, the issues are complicated but the very least I can do is engage with them and do my own research rather than simply following the “party line” of my peers and companions. Not necessarily an easy thing to do, but absolutely vital to my own integrity. Plenty of food for thought (all of which I’m still pondering but may well explore in a blog – or several – at a later date) and all part of my very rich “holiday” in Shropshire!

And so I find myself comfortable, stimulated and really looking forward to another three days luxuriating in a place I seem to become even more enamoured with at each visit. Mhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarvellous.

Addendum: this trip has also taught me an important lesson – bring my camera with me! I have a lovely digital camera which takes great photos, and I successfully left it at home. When a girl remembers to pack her Massage table and gear and forgets to chuck in a much-easier-to-transport camera you know where her priorities lie! However, today in particular, I have thought to myself “oooh, isn’t that a lovely image I could capture?” on many an occasion. Which hopefully means I’ll have well and truly learned my lesson and won’t make the same mistake twice! 

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