10 May, 2016

Monkey Puzzle

For all of the thirty-odd years we have been living at Catchmays Court - and probably about 100 years before that - a wonderfully prominent feature of the landscape has been our massive Araucaria, Chilean Pine. It was a female tree at least 30 metres high and much remarked by visitors and loved by us. 

We had rather wondered what its life expectancy might be and noted its proximity to the house but it had always seemed to be very healthy - especially at the crown where yearly cones matured and cracked open on hot late summer days scattering 200 nutlike seeds each.

There was, however, a severe wind from an unusual direction one night a few weeks ago. We heard nothing but awoke to discover an awesome scene.

It was clear that, though everything above ground was in good shape, the roots were not . . . with a good deal of rot. We do bless the unusual direction of the wind as, had the tree been made to fall in the other direction, it would have taken a good part of the house with it.

It was an awesome sight,

completely blocking the drive,


apparently squashing everything it fell upon (although at the end we found that many shrubs and such had been torn and bent rather than destroyed) and

generating an enormous volume of branches, as lethal as razor wire, to be disentangled and fed into a large chipper which has produced a gigantic Mount Fuji-like mound of useful chips.

We quickly decided that we wanted to keep the trunk just where it had positioned itself - as a wonderful sculpture. I spent hours picking out the soil compacted round the roots which we had trimmed and we then set about building a stone wall to make a platform near the curve of the elephant foot base of the tree. A comfortable seat and an old marble table were retrieved from elsewhere in the garden and . . . behold!

All in all, therefore, a bit of a trauma but better down than up we now feel and that vantage point is the best of all and I can see myself sitting on it an increasing part of my old age, happily staring out over the valley and listening to the birds!

29 April, 2016


After lunch, I had enjoyed a satisfying snooze in the sun in this very chair. Two hours later it was full of hail.

Such exaggerated and unpredictable behaviour is just what one would expect from a year so young. I love it!


20 April, 2016

Some More Spring Stuff - while we are still in the mood!

      Even more greatly moved by the arrival of Spring than usual this year, I dug into the file remembering this early experiment done in the very first year of my printing life. Some feelings don't change much over the years!
 And all at once I saw a crowd - of yellow celendines!

In the orchard and beside Harry Brockway's sculpture -

before the first mow.

 Frances put up one picture of this lovely tree last time . . . but it is worth seeing it from a different angle - any angle indeed!

Here is a pretty good performance from the Camellia this year.

The clear-up after the descent of the monkey puzzle has taken a lot of time and energy. It produced some sad destructions (but really not many given the size and weight of the monster that fell down) but it also left to be discovered and treasured some remarkable survivals. How many years would a Bonsai Master have to oversee the growth of a Rhododendron to bring about something as exquisite as this?

And finally, I decided to take new photographs of Summer Triptych a stunning work which Sara Philpott made in 2001. Getting it out into the sun was a revelation! We are lucky enough to have a number of paintings and drawings by Sara - some to do with the two books we have made together and others not. Her wonder at, and love of, every aspect of the natural world, and the joys of living in it, are so very close to our own!

18 April, 2016

and a year later . . .

For all sorts of reasons we have neglected this blog but having come to the realisation that aspects of our website are no longer functioning we shall endeavour to keep up with our friends here. Putting news and images on Facebook seems even more ephemeral - no sooner does one put things up there than they vanish unless you look specifically for our news. 
Characteristically, when Spring begins to show in the garden and woodland around us, Nicolas goes out with his camera to 'welcome blessed Spring' so, to re-launch the OSP blog here are some of these . . . hot out of the camera!

We watched the diligent robin carrying ever-larger wisps towards this safe little corner by the kitchen door. Happy little story - so far so good!

Wood anemones or windflowers.
A shy violet . . .
early colour on the Japanese Maple given to us for our Golden Wedding anniversary

and here is a photo taken in tribute to John Elwyn, with whom we produced a book of Dafydd ap Gwilym's wonderful poems and who was fascinated by reflections in bay windows. Such reflections appear in many of his paintings and this scene deserves to be painted as well!

The Egg - oil painting by John Elwyn