I know it’s only the beginning of February, but after the wettest couple of months ever I am officially done with Winter.
Planting bare rooted fruit trees in the rain at the allotment, constantly cancelled plans to meet friends and all the mud, mud, mud have stretched even our pragmatic approach to the weather, with our mantra of ‘no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ being thrown out as we admit that the weather at the moment is just plain rubbish.
Still, after a week of being stuck mostly indoors with a poorly Ollie, we jumped at the bright sunny morning today, ditched the usual
running and tennis clubs and headed out for a day out in the sunshine.
After ten minutes in the car, you guessed it, it started to rain. We were committed by then, so carried on in search of fresh air and signs of better things to come. Thank goodness for waterproof boots and trousers, plus layers of snoods and woolly hats to keep out the cold and the damp. I also had my secret weapon – having woken up with back ache I was basking in the glow of a stick-on heat pack.
It was well worth the effort of going out, with brave snow drops and cyclamen carpeting the grass at Wakehurst Place, and the irresistible scents of winter flowers filling the damp air; Winter box, Daphne and Mahonia all coming up trumps in the perfume department.
There are fewer insects around in the winter, so winter flowering plants really have to go the extra mile to attract those that are around, resulting in the unexpected sweetness in the air that makes you stop and search for the source as you pass by them.
The relative bareness of the winter garden is also a good opportunity to appreciate some of the treats that may otherwise be overlooked, such as the fantastic forms of mosses, lichens and liverworts, or intriguing burrows that would otherwise be hidden by lush vegetation.
The bird life at the garden was a good enough reason to visit in itself, as we stood rapt by a series of feeders coated in a host of tiny birds, blue tits, coal tits, great tits, robins, and even a nuthatch dipping elegantly into the half coconuts filled with seed and suspended from the trees.
Under the feeders we saw pheasants, a dunlin and blackbirds feasting on spilled seed, apparently not bothered in the least by Toby in his bright orange waterproof trousers as he tried to ‘creep up’ and take photos of them. The whole glade was filled with the sounds of hungry birds cheeping away to each other.
The boys were also captivated by watching birds skittering about on the partially frozen pond in front of the Manor House. The reflections
of the trees and planting around the pond was particularly pretty.
We took a drive out to a garden (free entry with our National Trust cards, and free parking with a Wakehurst Place membership), but you could go on a hunt for winter treasures and the very first signs of Spring in any green space. By making a note of the progress of plants and animals you are taking part in the wonderful tradition of Phenology – the study of the seasons. There are even great opportunities to get involved in some citizen science with the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project.
Notes: This is not a sponsored post, I have no affiliation with any organisation mentioned, all images and opinions are my own, slightly grouchy-due-to-the-weather musings. A few things were out of action at Wakehurst, including the main play area, as a section of the garden has been fenced off for maintenance, but it will be open again by March. This week there are Valentines themed half term activities provided in the Manor building, including sowing beetroot seeds in a heart shape for an additional £3 each, but as we have plenty of seeds and craft materials at home, and the boys aren’t in the slightest interested in ‘mushy stuff’ we gave that a miss. At £6 for a drink and cake we also gave the café a miss, so I’d definitely recommend a thermos and packed lunch if you’re just going for a regular day out. We’re also mourning the loss of the xeromorphic (dry adapted) planting in the seedbank that the boys always ran straight to, and the fascinating display of the history of Wakehurst complete with herbarium pages and old tools which have been replaced by a dead oak and some uninspiring melon-sized representations of seeds, painted in black and neon. Fortunately the well presented information about the work of the seed bank is still intact. Despite this, I would unreservedly recommend spending time at this garden, with it’s huge variety of planting and features. There are a mixture of accessible and more challenging paths, all of which are well signposted, plus accessible toilets and baby changing facilities on site. Entry is free with a National Trust card, but parking is £10 a day so we found it worth buying one annual membership to Wakehurst to get the free parking.